When it comes to the North Shore’s commercial districts, ‘vibrancy’ is one of those coveted yet often elusive qualities. It is the difference between a lively animated street and a commercial dead zone where people drive to their destinations, do their business and leave.
In an effort to provide more vibrancy, West Vancouver council is looking to restrict the number of doctor and dentist offices, pharmacies, vets and fitness studios that can occupy street-level storefronts.
We can see the logic behind it, but a stick is only part of the equation in creating a lively commercial area. Encouraging smaller and more affordable retail spaces might help.
But vibrancy is foremost about people. It isn’t something you create by disallowing certain kinds of businesses. It’s something you foster by encouraging people to spend more time in an area – by making it pedestrian friendly and easy to reach on transit.
Having a critical mass of people from all age demographics living close by is also key. That’s what has fuelled the success of areas like Lower Lonsdale.
Unfortunately, West Vancouver has spent decades resisting the changes that would provide that animated street life. Housing policies embraced by the municipality have forced out large swaths of younger demographics. Almost half of Ambleside’s residents are over 65.
Is it any surprise then that pharmacies and health-oriented services are occupying key commercial spots?
If council wants vibrancy, they should be focussed more on who is living nearby and less on who wants to open a business.
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