More rentals, less parking. That’s the compromise struck for an already-approved but stalled mixed-use residential/commercial project in Maplewood.
Council voted in 2018 to rezone Maplewood Plaza to include 155 strata apartments and townhouses, along with 28 market rental units and 10 below-market rentals.
But the project never started construction and, in 2022 the family that owned the property and carried it through the rezoning process sold it to a partnership between Darwin Properties and QuadReal Property Group. Together, they announced plans in March to convert the building’s strata homes into rentals.
The project was back before District of North Vancouver council July 18 to make that change, along with elimination of one level of underground parking from the project, taking the total number of residential parking spaces from 255 down to 158.
To mitigate the loss of parking, the developer has committed to some “transportation demand measures,” including the installation of a new bike lane and sidewalk along the east side of Old Dollarton Road from Front Street to Dollarton Highway to link up with existing bike routes, 82 additional individually locking bike stalls within the building, improvements to the transit stop on Old Dollarton and real-time transit information being displayed inside the lobby of the buildings on the site.
Council members were unanimous that converting the property to all-rental was a good move toward housing affordability.
But the parking variance triggered an oft-repeated dilemma in the council chamber: If a project has too many parking spots, it will be blamed for increasing local traffic; if it has too few, it will be blamed for putting more pressure on existing street parking.
“I will tell you that the streets are filled with cars. Front Street is absolutely packed with cars. One of the reasons, in my opinion, is that there's not enough parking in the rental building that sits on Front,” said Coun. Lisa Muri. “What has become very, very clear is that if there's a place to park on the road, people are going to use it.”
Coun. Mathew Bond countered the area is well served by transit and has plenty of shopping and other amenities just steps away, meaning it shouldn’t require as much parking.
“It's part of our move to go … from a community where most people drive almost everywhere, most of the time, to a community where more people walk, bike, and take transit more of the time,” he said.
Without eliminating a level of underground parking, the project likely wouldn’t be financially viable as all-rental, Bond added.
Mayor Mike Little indicated sooner or later, unregulated, free-for-all street parking would have to come to an end.
“I also want staff to get the message on this one that we have to be more actively managing parking in the neighbourhood. It cannot just be long-term storage of people's cars. That needs to be accounted for on private property,” he said.
Council voted 5-1 to approve the change with only Muri opposed.
Coun. Megan Curren did not attend the meeting.