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West Van OKs 'locals first' housing development at Marine and Taylor Way

Project includes restoration and protection of West Coast Modern building

West Vancouver council has approved an 89-unit strata and rental building on the corner of Taylor Way and Marine Drive.

The project by Executive Group will see 68 market condos and 21 market rentals in a building that stands eight storeys at the eastern end and tapers downward toward Taylor Way, on the site of a long-demolished gas station and commercial building fronting Marine.

As part of the project, the developer will restore and guarantee permanent heritage protection to the Woyat-Bowie building, at 660 Clyde Ave., a treasured 1966 West Coast Modern commercial building by Fred Hollingsworth and Barry Downs. Their design was used as inspiration for the larger apartment building.

The developer is also pitching public realm improvements including pedestrian connections and plazas, a separated bike path and a parkette.

The developer is going to offer a “locals first” policy – giving West Vancouver residents and employees the first opportunity to register for suites.

The project complies with the district’s official community plan and local area plan for Marine Drive, and the vast majority of comments from the public about the proposal were positive.

The motion passed unanimously by council following a public hearing Oct. 19.

“This proposes permanent purpose-built rental, permanent heritage revitalization and encourages active transportation, and really, it checks all of our boxes,” said Coun. Nora Gambioli. “It's really hard, I think, to be not supporting this proposal.”

Other council members also praised the design.

“All in all, it's one of the more pleasant developments that I've seen in a long time,” Coun. Bill Soprovich said.

As developments go, Coun. Marcus Wong said the proposal "knocks it out of the park."

“I’m certainly very excited to see this project move forward and I certainly hope that the project proponents will be putting shovels into the ground ASAP because I think that we've been looking at that site for a long time,” he said.

While Coun. Sharon Thompson voted in favour, she did lament that the project was going ahead before Park Royal’s Gateway rental towers were occupied, giving council an idea of how it would impact traffic patterns. She also suggested the site would be better used for commercial or hotel space.

“I am not completely sold that this is the best land use for this corner. I think, given the opportunities and direction, the proponents have done a good job.”

Coun. Peter Lambur said he had reservations about the public realm improvements included in the project, but said he had no issue with the new homes at that location.

With a major housing deficit, Coun. Craig Cameron said he expected the strata and rental homes to get snapped up by locals looking to downsize, and local employees.

“This is just a small drop in the bucket. This is only 89 units. We have to be approving 250 a year to meet our housing needs and we're coming nowhere close to that,” he said. “Nobody should be forced to leave their community because there are no options for them in their own community, and nobody who works here should be forced to commute for an hour-and-a-half, two hours to get to and from work, and that's ultimately within our power as a council to change.”

Mayor Mary-Ann Booth acknowledged concerns about traffic congestion, but she added that with shopping and services a short walk away, and more transit options than any other part of West Vancouver, the residents there were the least likely to be adding to congestion on Marine Drive.

“People coming from the Upper Lands, from Horseshoe Bay, Ambleside, Dundarave, Caulfeild – we’re more likely to drive through that intersection than people that live there,” she said.