More than six years after it was approved by council, the largest mixed-use commercial and residential development project on the North Shore in recent decades will soon become a reality.
City of North Vancouver council approved Concert Properties' request to build 800 strata and rental units and ground-level commercial space on the waterfront property along Harbourside Drive in 2014. But the land has largely be been left fallow since then.
Now Concert president and CEO Brian McCauley says things are about to get rolling.
“It's a multi-phase project that is ultimately going to land 800,000 feet of residential density and 290,000 feet of commercial density, in frankly, 17 different buildings. So it's a complex project for sure, and is bound to take some time,” he said.
In 2015, council agreed to allow the land to be temporarily used by Hawker’s Wharf, a hub for foodie startups, but those plans were formally scrapped a year later.
In 2017, Concert came back with a request to swap out a hotel that was originally planned for the site with seniors housing, which council granted. At the end of that year, the company applied for their first permits, McCauley said.
“It has taken us longer to get a development permit approved for Phase 1 than we had anticipated but some of that we chalk up to the realities of COVID,” he said.
Also setting things back was it being the first development approved that would have to anticipate for and mitigate sea level rise by raising the entire site by 1.5 metres and stabilizing the foreshore. That required its own studies and approval process through Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which Concert now has.
“We are readying ourselves to be put a shovel in the ground on the construction activities in 2021,” McCauley said.
As a result, Kingsmill Walk Park will be redesigned and reworked. The city has already started taking public input on what that should look like.
In an email, Mayor Linda Buchanan said she was pleased to see the development moving along.
“This project was approved by council several years ago, and the need to deliver on new housing is as important now as it was then,” she said.
Buchanan added she encourages everyone to take part in the Kingsmill Walk Park master plan. “As we build this plan we’d like to continue to hear from all people about how this area can be improved,” she said.
McCauley said he expects it will be another 10 to 12 years for the project to be built out in phases across five hectares land, starting with the southeast corner and moving west towards Bodwell High School.
The condo market has been a bit erratic since 2014 but McCauley said he believes there will be a very strong desire for units, particularly from downsizers who already live on the North Shore.
McCauley added he hopes some local employees, including Seaspan staff who commute in, will move into the 100 rental units included in the first phase, getting more vehicles off the roads.
One of the lingering issues for council at the time the development was approved was access with only two roads into the neighbourhood, and no bus service. When the first phase is open, Concert is obligated to have a shuttle service in place but McCauley said he is very optimistic that ongoing talks with the city and TransLink will result in bus service being introduced to West First Street about 400 metres to the north.
And he said, there was no direct pedestrian-cyclist route from Harbourside to Lonsdale when the project was approved.
“With the opening of the Spirit Trail. You're literally a 10-minute walk now from our site into Lonsdale Quay. It's really very, pretty convenient,” he said.