AFTER nearly a decade of fits and starts, a vision of West Vancouver's central waterfront neighbourhood may be crystallized over the next few weeks following council's decision to move ahead with the Ambleside activation group last week.
With a round of public consultation scheduled to take place over the next few weeks, staff is expected to report back to council in late February or early March.
Currently, district staff are looking at the possibility of creating a "more intense" commercial area concentrated between 14th and 18th streets, according to director of planning Bob Sokol.
Clyde Avenue would also be changed from a service industrial area to mixed commercial, and Ambleside would take on a greater proportion of residents.
Excluding the three sites on Marine Drive specially designated in the OCP, buildings in Ambleside would be generally limited to three storeys with exceptions for some four-storey buildings depending on the slope.
While the possibility of Grosvenor's tiered towers being built on the 1300-block has been uppermost in the minds of many residents, council pledged to examine a makeover for the entire neighbourhood beginning at the waterfront and extending north to Duchess Avenue.
A second public meeting is scheduled for Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at West Vancouver Memorial Library.
"We haven't had a lot of buildings coming into Ambleside," Sokol acknowledged to council at its Jan. 14 meeting, discussing the development boom that has thus far excluded the seaside neighbourhood.
Currently, the plans for Ambleside are somewhat vague, according to Coun. Craig Cameron who said concentrated commercial space has not been illuminated in the district's town centre strategy.
"Unfortunately, the town centre strategy doesn't really give us a blueprint against which to judge the 1300-block proposal," Cameron said of the Grosvenor buildings. "The proponent could not explain adequately how the 1300-block proposal fit into the district's vision of the future Ambleside."
As one of the special sites marked in the district's official community plan, Sokol said the 1300-block should be treated as an exception.
"That is a unique block, and we really should look at that very differently than we look at almost every other block," Sokol said.
Ideally, Ambleside should be home to a hodgepodge of enterprises, according to Sokol.
"If it was to develop only residential it would be a really boring site," he said.
Citing the abundance of real estate offices and financial institutions that tend to dull the pedestrian experience on Marine Drive, Sokol said the group will encourage specialty stores for Ambleside.
"Ambleside won't compete with Park Royal," Sokol promised.
"We need to do, as a council and as a community, some more work in articulating the amount of retail, the type of retail, what we think will succeed, the amount of office space we want, where it should be," Cameron said.
While the plan calls for a greater proportion of residential units, Cameron said at least two important questions were unanswered: "How much and what type?" he said. "For the community's sake, it would be good to have these things more articulated."
Currently, at least two Ambleside businesses are hoping to expand, according to Sokol, and the Grosvenor proposal is pending.
Construction is also expected to begin on a new Shell station and convenience store on 13th Street and Marine Drive early this year, according to Sokol.