West Van nudges Marine Drive project

Nearly six years after their first pitch, West Vancouver council voted Monday to send Park Royal’s two-tower 752 Marine Drive proposal to a public hearing.

If approved, the White Spot site would become home to a 14-storey, 104-unit flatiron and an 11-storey, 99-unit midrise. The project includes 29,584 square feet of commercial space and a district-owned 3,898-square-foot child-care space.

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The development is integral to the rejuvenation of West Vancouver, according to Mayor Michael Smith, who beseeched his community’s “silent majority” to make themselves heard.

“We have a number of citizens in our community that are only convinced of about two things: they know they don’t like things the way they are and they don’t like change,” he said.

There isn’t a single modern rental unit in the district that would compel a young person to move to West Vancouver, Smith said. A district staff report noted that 91 rental units have been approved since the 1970s.

The Park Royal proposal was slated to add 60 units to West Vancouver’s rental stock, but Park Royal vice-president Rick Amantea suggested Monday the other 143 units could also be rental. Amantea also suggested the project would initially be open to West Van residents and possibly its workers before opening up to the North Shore and then to everyone else.

Under questioning from Coun. Bill Soprovich, Amantea said he wasn’t sure how long those 143 units would remain rental, but added it would be a “considerable period of time.”

While Soprovich called the influx of rental a “major consideration,” Coun. Christine Cassidy was less impressed.

Cassidy accused Amantea of leaving council “blindsided” by the change and suggested the rental may revert to strata within a few years. “Lack of certainty makes me exceedingly uncomfortable,” she said.

Despite her misgivings, Cassidy voted to send the project to public hearing; joining the rest of her colleagues with the exception of Coun. Peter Lambur.

The project includes 49 market and 11 non-market rentals. If approved, Park Royal would pay West Vancouver $10,769,460 as a community amenity contribution. Lambur suggested the CAC be reduced in order to incorporate more below market housing into the project.

Noting the difficulty many businesses have in hiring new workers, speaker Barry Hall noted that employees at Park Royal and Ambleside would likely not live in the new building.

Housing people who work for scarcely more than minimum wage is close to an impossibility given West Vancouver’s high square footage costs, noted Coun. Mary-Ann Booth.

“I’m sorry, I won’t be able to get housing for baristas,” she said. “That’s not a good thing.”

The project will meet a housing need, according to Coun. Craig Cameron.

Cameron also addressed West Vancouver residents who based their opposition to the project on the routine gridlock at Marine Drive and Taylor Way.

While the residential component of the new development will likely add 60 trips per hour to the area during rush hour, a purely commercial project would put three times more cars on the road.

“We can’t force Larco to not build,” Cameron said, reminding the gallery the site is currently zoned commercial.

The project includes 201 parking spots for residents and 50 stalls for businesses and visitors spread over four underground levels accessed through Squamish land.

Barring a lease extension, a portion of the site south of Marine Drive would revert back to the Squamish Nation in about 75 years.

The project is intended to “respect the West Coast character of West Vancouver and relate to the scale of the adjacent West Royal Towers,” according to a district staff report. But West Royal Tower resident Arash Atash suggested the project would leave 50 families “permanently in shade.”

The shadow study revealed a two-way street, according to Coun. Nora Gambioli.

“Ironically, the West Royal Towers are shown to be throwing just as much shadow onto this new development in the morning as this development will throw onto West Royal in the late evening.”

The meeting ended with Mayor Smith discussing the stakes of rejecting the proposal.

“It’ll be a community of moaners, whiners and retirees that are happy just with no life,” he said, prompting a few in the audience to walk out before the conclusion of the nearly five-hour meeting.

The public hearing is scheduled for May 7.

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