Flood damage shutters businesses in West Van

Repairs prompt Kerrisdale Cameras to close, At Home to relocate

Three longtime businesses in West Vancouver’s Ambleside district have been told they have to move out, with only a few weeks’ notice, after cracks were discovered in a concrete slab underneath their building.

The businesses in the 1500-block of Marine Drive have to vacate so the property owner can do tests called for by engineers to investigate what has caused the damage.

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“It’s an immediate problem for our business,” said Jennifer Engelhart, co-owner, with her sister Nikki Engelhart, of the At Home home decor shop. “We’ve been around 30 years in September. We are desperately looking for a location to move to.”

So far, however, “We have not been successful,” she said. “There’s very little availability.”

Owners of the neighbouring Ki-Isu Japanese restaurant are also scrambling to move kitchen equipment before contractors are scheduled to start April 1.

Neither business knows yet whether costs will be covered by insurance.

Trouble was discovered earlier this winter when water sloshed into an unused crawl space beneath the building after a heavy rain combined with high tides.

The only safe way to excavate necessary test pits is vertically, through the floor. Work is expected to take between four and six months.

Neighbouring business Kerrisdale Cameras will close its West Vancouver location March 23 and move inventory to its Lonsdale Avenue store, said manager Derek Bell, who first got a job at the store when it opened 50 years ago and has spent the past 27 years there.

Customers are “very sad” about the closure, he said. “I’ve had personal relationships with them for a long time.”

Some employees at the West Vancouver store will lose their jobs.

Christian Costo, the contractor overseeing work for the building’s owner, said he won’t know the extent of the problem or what caused it until test pits are dug, but added, “There’s a long history of water issues on this block.”

Other businesses in the block have had to temporarily close before because of flooding damage and sewer backups.

In a recent rainstorm, a neighbouring parking lot was flooded and a pumper truck had to be called in, said Engelhart.

Sewage was also seen bubbling out of a storm drain behind their own building.

Municipal crews were called out last month after that report, and found the sewer line from the building blocked by grease, said Donna Powers, district spokeswoman.

During that investigation, crews also found the storm drain for the parking lot behind the businesses had been connected to the sewer line – something that is not allowed, she said. Powers said it’s not known when that connection was put in, but it was likely the cause of the sewage overflow. The municipality has ordered that problem be corrected, she added.

Engelhart said she would be happy to come back to Ambleside if that’s possible, but right now finding another lease is her top priority so that At Home can stay in business.

“The North Shore’s been a great community for us,” she said.

Property records indicate the building is owned by Sylton Holdings & Management with a sole director, Katie Au of Vancouver. The assessed value of the land is $7.25 million, while the building is valued at just under $11,000.

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