RealTours is the breakthrough new series from REW.ca that brings you Canadian real estate like you’ve never seen it before. Join us as we embark on an adventure through the Lower Mainland’s most sought-after neighbourhoods, guided by British Columbia’s best realtors.
With some of the most expensive property in Canada, West Vancouver has a hard-earned reputation to maintain. From the beachfront condos of Ambleside to the mountain mansions of the British Properties, the city has a lot to offer - for a price.
However, West Van is working to shift its air of exclusivity and trying to inject new life into its communities. Developments like Cypress Village are being designed for young families, and the waterside neighbourhood of Dundarave is reinventing itself as the area’s social epicentre to bring in younger residents and revellers. Plus the quality of schools in West Vancouver is incredibly high, convincing some families to swallow the high cost of living in favour of a great education for their children.
Outside of the house, West Vancouver is a playground for people of all ages. Beaches, seawalls, ski hills, hundreds of kilometres of mountain trails and so much more are all at your doorstep. Plus the shopping, restaurants and cafes are world class.
In this episode of RealTours, Stephen Tadgh gets to know the real West Vancouver with the help of top realtor Jesse Dean Cook.
Welcome to West Van
Sitting on the northern banks of the Burrard Inlet and the southern shores of Howe Sound, West Vancouver is as defined by its waterfront as it is by its mountains. It’s connected to Vancouver by the iconic Lions Gate Bridge, which also serves as an approximate boundary from its North Shore neighbour to the east, North Vancouver. From the shoreline, the city climbs into the mountains, specifically Cypress Mountain, with its provincial park and ski resort.
West Vancouver is divided in two by the Trans Canada Highway - below you find the more densely populated communities of Ambleside and Dundarave. Above the highway are the British Properties, big homes on large lots with massive views. Follow the highway west and you’ll reach Horseshoe Bay and Lions Bay, where West Vancouver officially ends.
Due to its geography, there’s not a lot of room for West Vancouver to grow. That’s a big reason why property comes at such a premium here. Well that and the natural beauty on offer. From sunsets on the seawall to kayaking around the coves of Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver is nothing short of stunning.
"West Vancouver isn't the cheapest place in town, that's for sure,” says Cook. “But there are lots of different options. You can get a decent house with a smaller lot that's in an A+ location, as opposed to a really nice house that's 30, 40 or even 60 minutes outside of town. So a lot of people trade that off."
In the southeastern corner of the city, Ambleside started as West Vancouver’s main business centre. Before the Lions Gate Bridge was completed in 1938, it was also the site of the ferry to downtown Vancouver. Today it maintains that commercial role, with businesses, restaurants and shops lining its streets.However, Ambleside’s main selling point is its proximity to the sea. The beach and seawall are huge draws throughout the year for residents and visitors alike.
"It's a vibrant beach community,” explains Cook. “We have the seawall that tapers all the way to the beach, great parks, lots of things for all the family to do, amazing restaurants. It's a very international crowd here too. You'll hear a lot of different languages as you walk around."
The shoreline is lined with condo towers, with townhomes and single-family homes more common as you head north. The city is also working on increasing diversity in the neighbourhood’s housing market, trying to address that missing middle of affordability and space.
Head west along the coast from Ambleside and you’ll reach Dundarave, a seaside village that’s managed to maintain a quaint yet vibrant vibe. Like Ambleside, you’ll find a walkable neighbourhood filled with restaurants, shops and beachside amenities.
“Everyone knows each other,” says Cook.”It's just a really safe-feeling community. You're not in your car, having to drive around. You can walk four or five blocks to get your groceries, get a coffee, get your haircut, go to a nice restaurant."
Homeseekers interested in Dundarave will find larger homes here, including some iconic waterfront properties. But the city is looking to attract new residents with smaller homes replacing mansions and low-rise condos appearing, even close to the shore.
This shift in approach is being matched by local businesses in Dundarave who want to create a new social epicentre for West Vancouver, according to Amanda Wood Cook, Jesse’s wife and marketing director with Next Door Real Estate Group.
“What was missing before was somewhere you could go and create a bit of a vibe, have a later evening, have some drinks, have some social connection,” she explains.” And what's taking place now and what we're actively trying to be a part of is changing that dynamic.”
Until recently, living above the highway in West Vancouver was out of reach for most people. The British Properties, as the area is known, boasts some of the most expensive homes in BC. It’s no surprise given the jaw-dropping views enjoyed by residents here. On a clear day, you can see Mount Baker and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
That exclusivity is being challenged with the development of Cypress Village, near the road that winds up to Cypress Mountain Resort. Around 3,700 properties are being built with the intention of providing a more affordable option for young families interested in the area.
“It's a component that's been missing for decades,” says Jesse Dean Cook. “The connectivity to Cypress Bowl and having great restaurant vibes for people after they ski. Plus, there'll be a public school here. You'll have condos, market rentals, some townhouses, some smaller houses as well. It will service young families staying in West Vancouver who otherwise would have to leave."
So while it will be years before Cypress Village is complete, it’s a beacon of hope for homeseekers who want to call West Vancouver home without the price tag of the nearby mansions.
Engel & Volkers Vancouver
Jesse Dean Cook’s life looked very different before he got into real estate. He was working for a multi-billion dollar corporation, travelling tens of thousands of kilometres a year as part of his job. His wife, Amanda, is a singer and she was on the road a lot too.
When the couple decided it was time to settle down, a friend advised them to try real estate.
“He showed me West Vancouver and I fell in love with it,” remembers Jesse. “I made the jump in 2013 to moving my wife and I to Dundarave and kicked off our newfound career."
For the last 10 years, the pair have worked hard to grow their business and please their clients, with Amanda now in charge of the marketing and creative approach.
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Attribution: Find out what West Vancouver is really like with RealTours - rew.ca