City of North Vancouver advances Harry Jerome project

The City of North Vancouver is one massive step closer to getting its new Harry Jerome rec centre after council narrowly voted to advance an 802-unit Upper Lonsdale development project that will pay for it following a public hearing held Monday.

Council voted 4-3, despite hesitations from Couns. Linda Buchanan and Craig Keating, as well as Mayor Darrell Mussatto, to advance the development of the Harry Jerome neighbourhood lands that will see Darwin Properties build one 30-storey tower and one 26-storey tower in addition to three six-storey buildings and one five-storey building between 21st and 23rd streets along Lonsdale Avenue.

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Darwin will agree to pay the city $183 million to lease the land for a period of 99 years, with the funds going towards paying for the new Harry Jerome recreation centre project estimated to cost $210 million.

“This is a good deal for the city,” said Coun. Rod Clark. “I’ve been pushing for leasing of city-owned lands for 15, 20 years.”

More than 40 local residents addressed council during Monday’s public hearing, with a near even split between those in favour of the project and those opposed.

Many who spoke out against the project rallied against the loss of nearby Norseman Field, which will be cleared to make way for the new rec centre, pending approval.

But, Clark noted, Darwin’s proposal accounts for loss of local green space with plans to extend nearby Crickmay Park south along Lonsdale to 21st Street as well as weaving the Green Necklace trail network through the development area.

“Much has been made at this table about what we’re getting in the way of trades between losing Norseman Park and Mickey McDougall Field and what the new project will bring,” Clark said. “It’s going to be a change, but you’re going to have open space and it will be public accessible.”

Darwin’s 802-unit proposal includes 486 units of market housing and 124 units of market rental, as well as 13 units that will be devoted to affordable rentals and another 99 units earmarked for seniors in need of assisted living. In addition, the proposal also includes a child-care centre with 37 spaces and 80 housing units that the city can allocate to a non-profit organization of its choosing.

Local resident Linda Sullivan, who spoke at the public hearing, praised Darwin’s proposal for offering a variety of housing options.

“Moving away from family in North Vancouver is now becoming a necessity rather than a choice,” Sullivan said. “I’m excited at the prospect that my sons could come back to North Vancouver.”

But Coun. Keating said that a rec centre with a curling rink and 50-metre swimming pool was excessive and argued the community shouldn’t have to pay for it by losing park space and adding unwanted density, referring to the proposed Harry Jerome rec centre as more of an “elite sport lollapalooza.”

“Where’s the District of North Vancouver? They just finished building a new recreation centre. Did they get a 50-metre pool?” he mused. “We got to carry the cost with that, and more specifically this neighbourhood has to carry the cost of that because they’re the ones who are going to have all this new traffic, all this new density, all these new buildings in that spot.”

Coun. Buchanan observed that Darwin’s proposal was the “single largest development that we’re going to see along the Lonsdale corridor,” and while she approved of the project’s community amenities, she balked at the potential costs.

“What we started out with was saying we wanted a community recreation centre, we’ve now got a regional centre. … How much is this community prepared to pay?” she said. “We’ve had housing projects that have come forward that have given us far greater benefits to supply housing and people around this table have refused it.”

Retired school teacher Rosemary Swinton worried the community wouldn’t be able to handle an influx of new people as increased density lured families to the area.

“You have 37 units available for child care. In a building of these sizes, this is totally inadequate. I would suggest that the developers look carefully at this because daycare is a major problem for young parents,” she said, adding that a lack of schools in the Lonsdale area could create challenges for families as well. “What are parents to do if both parents work? How do they get their children to school?”

Following Monday’s public hearing, council voted on a number of official community plan amendments that would allow the project to proceed. Darwin originally proposed building a pair of 28-storey towers, but agreed to instead build one 30-storey on the project’s north side and one 26-storey tower at the southern side following discussion that variances in height would create a more pleasing skyline.

Couns. Clark, Holly Back, Don Bell and Pam Bookham voted in favour of the proposed amendments, with Couns. Buchanan, Keating and Mayor Mussatto opposed.

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