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City of North Vancouver OKs two new all-rental buildings

Council split on approval for replacement of GardenWorks store at busy Marine Drive intersection

Two more six-storey buildings are coming to the City of North Vancouver, bringing 130 new purpose-built rental homes to Upper Lonsdale and Mosquito Creek.

In both projects, as with all new rental buildings in the city, 10 per cent of the units must be offered at 10 per cent below market rates, as determined by the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation, for the lifespan of the building.

The first project at 705 West Third St., where the GardenWorks store now stands, received council’s approval Oct. 18, albeit by a slim 4-3 margin.

The 70 rental apartments will sit atop a privately owned child care facility with space for up to 144 kids.

Couns. Tony Valente and Holly Back and Mayor Linda Buchanan voted against the rezoning.

Valente said he had no difficulty with the rental homes at the location, but said he could not live with what he saw as sub-par public realm improvements included in the project. The project features a plaza facing north to Marine Drive, which he said would be unpleasant, as well as a 3.35-metre wide multi-use path running along Bewicke Avenue, which he said is inviting trouble between pedestrians and cyclists.

During the earlier public hearing, the most common complaint was about traffic putting cyclist and pedestrian safety at risk, particularly on the north side of Marine Drive.

“These types of conflicts get designed in and I really just don't feel that this layout is appropriate,” he said.

Buchanan agreed.

“I think we could have done much better with this corner and I think we need to do better in terms of our entire planning around this particular area of the city,” she said.

The majority on council, however, approved of the design, the location close to transit and the ground floor child care business.

“Bottom line is the city needs child care,” said Coun. Angela Girard. “Our support of it is not only supporting our families who desperately need that child care, but it is also supporting our local economy. We've heard that from our chamber of commerce that business owners need the child care to support their staff who are working within the city.”

Council’s support for a six-storey mass timber building at 2762 Lonsdale Ave., however, was unanimous.

The project from Adera Developments will see 60 rental homes replace a 1969 building with 20 rental suites.

Although some neighbours called in during an earlier public hearing to say the project was too tall and would exacerbate already stiff competition for coveted free street parking nearby, council members were highly supportive of the project going ahead.

Coun. Jessica McIlroy noted the top storey was recessed, making the sixth story largely invisible to neighbours in surrounding homes.

“I believe the design does a good job of minimizing that impact in a way that still provides for a viable building that provides below-market housing,” she said.

Coun. Don Bell also addressed the desire from neighbours for something smaller.

“The reality is that we're seeing not too many three- to -four-storey buildings anymore. We're seeing four- and five- and six-storey buildings,” he said.

Coun. Holly Back noted she is usually very cautious about putting pressure on street parking, but added she had very little issue with what was being proposed.

“Most of those people, as our caller earlier, live in a single-family home and should not be parking on the street anyways because they have driveways and carports and garages,” she said.

Council also spoke highly of Integra Architecture’s design and use of mass timber, which sequesters carbon, rather than emitting it.

“It will greatly reduce the time period of construction and reduce construction noise, and possibly address climate change,” said Coun. Tina Hu, who added she appreciated the number of three-bedroom units suitable for families.