North Vancouver's Harbourside project gets council approval

The largest single commercial/residential development to come before the city in recent years won its approval at City of North Vancouver council Monday night, years after it was first pitched.

Concert Properties' Harbourside development, which will place roughly 800 strata and rental units and 300,000 square feet of commercial space on the waterfront property along Harbourside Drive at the foot of Fell Avenue over the next 10 to 15 years, passed 5-2 in a late-night session of council.

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The city previously held a public hearing to rezone the property on April 1 but chose to defer the vote.

The motion passed 5-2, with Couns. Pam Bookham and Rod Clark voting against - the same split on council for each step of the project over the last two years.

For the two dissenters, the issues were poor access, a loss of land that could be commercial or industrial and the project's isolation from the rest of the city and its services.

The only ways into the area are via Fell Avenue and Bewicke Avenue, which is home to an at-grade rail crossing. TransLink has no plans to run transit to the area and so the developer has promised to run a private shuttle linking the neighbourhood with the SeaBus terminal.

"It flies in the face of every planning principle that has guided where we put density. That is in Lower Lonsdale, Central Lonsdale and along the Marine Drive corridor because of that close connection between where people live and how they move about," Bookham said, adding that the private shuttle plan is "no solution at all."

"I find it hard to call it a neighbourhood because it is so far removed. There is no connection with other residential parts of the city. There's no connection to any services. There's no connection to any commercial area and I doubt very much the kind of commercial that will come in with the mixed use will be more than a place where you can maybe buy a quart of milk and a newspaper."

However, Coun. Guy Heywood chose to champion the proposal at the late hour. With the project having been before council for both an official community plan ammendment and rezoning, it had, despite its challenges, had more vetting by the city than most projects that come forward, he said. And the commercial space at the site coupled with the housing will make it a community where residents can live and work in the same place, which is the best council could hope for he added.

"It's never going to be classic industrial. It was never industrial before. It will never qualify as a truck terminal site because it's not close to a highway," he said. "There's no way it's going to be destination-commercial. It's going to have to generate its own activity through the efforts of development that will have to promote a livework style of development." Heywood added he was confident the area will eventually be served by transit.

Council must still pass one final reading of the bylaw.

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