Category Archives: Harbourside

Harbourside inaction-new public hearing

Comment from Voices: The first public hearing regarding this development was held on June 25 2012:

Since then, various applications and rezoning proposals have come before Council (search Harbourside for history). The project was the subject of a contentious public hearing, with many speakers asking for a provision for a park, and plans for a pier were discussed at one point. We estimate that the City has added approximately 5,000 residents in the area with recent development. If the area was deemed ‘not park deficient’ in 2012, perhaps that could be looked at again.

Now a change from seniors housing to market rental is being proposed and a new public hearing will be held.  Councillor Keating was waxing eloquently about the stream of workers leaving Seaspan after shift, and how they need rental housing in the area. However, Seaspan in another article, is contemplating layoffs. Once again, so many issues. A project forced through the approval process in 2012 and still languishing.  An opportunity for a fresh look at the site?  We are a waterfront community without access.



More than three years after winning approval to build a massive commercial/residential project south of the Northshore Auto Mall, Concert Properties has yet to apply for a building permit or a development permit for the Harbourside project.

The development was debated again Monday as City of North Vancouver council voted 4-2 to grant Concert’s request to delay the construction of a seniors’ rental-assisted living facility, push some of the commercial space originally earmarked for the foot of Fell Avenue farther west, and fast-track the construction of market rental housing.

The changes chagrined Coun. Pam Bookham, who excoriated Concert for taking so long to begin building the 800 strata and rental units and 300,000 square feet of commercial space on the strip of waterfront property between Bewicke Avenue and Bodwell High School.

“The vibrancy which basically sold this project . . . is now in danger of never being realized,” she said, joining Coun. Rod Clark in voting against the change.

“I don’t understand why we would be supportive of Concert when they seem unable or unwilling to move forward and deliver the vision that they sold to us, and sold to the community,” she said.

It was a vision Bookham never bought into, suggesting the project “flies in the face” of planning principles that target high-density projects for areas with quick access to transit.

The project includes a 24-seat community shuttle bus, which would offer complimentary service from Harbourside to Lonsdale Quay. The shuttle would cease operations once TransLink increases service in the area.

Given the steady stream of traffic that backs up along West First Street when Seaspan workers end their shift, “it’s about bloody time” there was rental housing in the area, stated Coun. Craig Keating.

“It’d be great if in fact we could have a bit more housing capacity down there so we’re not overloading the roads with people who just want to come here to work at good industrial jobs,” he said.

The project should “help to address historically low rental vacancy rates,” according to a city staff report. The city’s vacancy rate was pegged at 0.3 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s 2016 survey.

However, there is also a “strong need” for rental housing for seniors, the staff report noted.

Concert’s bid to reconfigure the commercial space “has the potential to weaken” the city’s goal of creating a vibrant commercial junction at the foot of Fell Avenue, according to a city staff report.

Intended as a temporary foodie hub, the Hawker’s Wharf project was formally scrapped in 2016. – photo Cindy Goodman, North Shore News

That was a concern for Clark, who questioned if the city had created a “gentrified community” with a large portion of dental, medical, and legal offices.

“Are we at risk of diluting the commercial node at the bottom of Fell?” Clark asked.

Dilution is a concern, said city planner Michael Epp. However, there will still be a plaza surrounded by commercial space.

“I do think that the node does still function,” Epp told Clark.

Clark also expressed frustration with Concert Properties’ sluggish pace.

“I want to see action and I want to see it soon,” he said.

The project’s initial plan prioritized the neighbourhood’s commercial centre and employment-generating office space, with the largest residential portion set to be delivered later in the process. That process was negotiated to provide the city “with a greater degree of comfort that the amenities would be delivered, particularly in the event that market conditions change,” noted a city staff report.

Building regulations related to flood risk have made the commercial component more challenging, according to Epp.

“They just haven’t been able to achieve the amount of commercial development at the ground floor that they previously anticipated,” Epp said.

However, the changes are “relatively minor,” as the majority of the commercial development is still slated to be built in the first two phases of the four-phase project, noted a staff report.

The change is intended to be a “precursor to some serious action on the site,” Epp said.

Mayor Darrell Mussatto concurred, referring to a meeting with Concert Properties.

“They want to get moving on this, and they see this as critical,” he said.

Mussatto also supported building housing first. “I think it’s the right thing to be doing.”

 Concert Properties initially pitched a major project for the waterfront in June of 2009.

The site is currently vacant, despite initial plans to create an outdoor plaza at 925 Harbourside Dr. ringed by cooks, chefs, and craft beer brewers. Plans for Hawker’s Wharf were discarded despite entrepreneur Chris Jerome and Concert Properties reaching an agreement with the City of North Vancouver in 2015.

The Harbourside project would likely take 10 years to complete, according to city staff.

Coun. Don Bell did not attend the meeting.

(comment from Voices: Councillor Bell underwent major knee surgery last week, we wish him all the best for a speedy recovery).)


Pay parking decision points to larger issue (NSNews)

 “This (pay parking decision) is just the tip of the very huge iceberg of non-creativity that is currently defining North Vancouver planning across the board.”
– Siobhan O’Connell, April 6 North Shore News

In her letter to the editor, Siobhan O’Connell added an exclamation mark to the frustration many City of North Vancouver residents feel about what they see as a growing lack of democratic process at city hall.

The Harbourside business owner-taxpayer wrote she was “beyond offended and utterly frustrated” that, absent any pretence at public consultation, council had voted 5-2 to turn area streets into a pay parking zone.

Whether or not O’Connell was aware, this issue has been festering for six years or more. We know that because, at a mid-April 2012 open house held to discuss development of the lands held by Knightsbridge Properties and Concert Properties, two of the main concerns that attendees raised were related to traffic gridlock and the already existing lack of parking spaces for employees and clients of the Northshore Auto Mall.

On April 18, 2012, North Shore News reporter Benjamin Alldritt noted that traffic consultant Peter Joyce, of Bunt and Associates, “said he had heard residents’ concerns over traffic at previous events over the past
two years.”

Driven by the pace of development, concerns about traffic congestion and parking throughout the city were repeated to council by a dozen or more presenters at a subsequent meeting of council on June 17, 2014.

Over those years, anyone who had taken their car down for an early-morning servicing could have told you the Auto Mall street parking was already taken.

How has it taken until now for city staff and council to bring down a hammer – on the wrong people?

Reached for her comment, O’Connell repeated her belief that a temporary solution would be for the city and property owners to reach some sort of agreement that vehicles be allowed to use the five vacant nearby lots to cope with overflow parking needs.

“We often see people from the film industry parked down there,” she said. “Why shouldn’t North Shore residents and businesses be allowed to do the same?”

When I thought of what it would take in business volume for O’Connell to just break even after paying her 24 employees and $14,000/month rent, I didn’t have the heart to answer by suggesting the use of those lots would likely also come at a price.

Lack of parking and traffic congestion issues are reaching crisis point in all three municipalities. It is hard to see how driving commercial operations out of business by making it impossible for their employees to get to work, or clients to patronize them will do anything to improve the quality of life on the North Shore. It is not as though convenient transit alternatives are anywhere close on the horizon.

And speaking of transit, the other major point to be made – especially in the city – is that the developments approved over the past eight to 10 years have so crowded our main thoroughfares, it will soon be impossible to build any effective form of rapid transit, even if TransLink did decide to look beyond the bridges.

Another aspect of the Harbourside question yet to be determined is for the community to hear exactly what will be the updated nature of the development on the still vacant lands. Many of the fundamentals of the original plans have changed significantly over the intervening years since Knightsbridge and Concert Properties first began to put their ideas to council.

Not only has council membership changed at least twice over, the tone of council discussion has become toxic.

Meanwhile, city’s hall’s overzealous staff appears to prefer overcoming council’s democratic right and responsibility to make the final decisions.

Beyond that, though, is the fact that man-made or not, climate change is giving a boost to sea levels and forcing corporations and governments alike to rethink their attitudes to waterfront developments.

Will rising sea levels cause Concert to pull back and revise their plans? If that should happen, will Mayor Darrell Mussatto and his team at city hall give the public another chance to voice its opinions?

Or will they say – as they have over the recent Lot 5 changes – that citizens had plenty of opportunity to say their piece at the start of the process and all they need do now is comment on the design and/or zoning variances.
More and more it seems, the four in the 4-3 votes on council seem to think the public is only useful to pay for the decisions they make behind closed doors.
Question is, are city taxpayers of North Vancouver going to take that lying down?
Or will more and more of them “get their Irish up” as O’Connell has done?

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Pay parking coming to North Vancouver’s Harbourside neighbourhood

Comment from Voices:  Concerns were expressed by businesses and employees in July 2013 about parking and congestion in the Harbourside area. In June 2014 Council members, with the exception of Councillors Bookham and Clark, and with fierce opposition by members of the public – approved 800 residential units on the waterfront portion of  the area.

We agree with this NS News statement:

One City of North Vancouver councilor is predicting a “battle royal” following a split council decision in favour of instituting pay parking and time-restricted parking spots in the area surrounding the Northshore Auto Mall.

Article in the North Shore News:

Source: Pay parking coming to North Vancouver’s Harbourside neighbourhood

The free ride may not abide in Harbourside, following council’s decision to support new restrictions including pay parking between Bewicke Avenue and Mackay Creek.

In an effort to free up more parking spots in advance of an 800-unit development slated to be built at Harbourside over the next decade, council supported instituting pay parking and time-restricted spots in a split vote March 7. However, one councillor warned the change could be a disaster.

“I think we’re in for a battle royal,” Coun. Pam Bookham advised her colleagues. “I think we’re going to hear the first outcries the moment we try to introduce this plan.”

City staff weighed several options before recommending a combination of pay parking and time limits. Keeping the status quo was not considered despite the fact that keeping things as they are was the public’s preferred option in a 2013 study.

The same study also found on-street parking was 97 per cent full. According to a 2015 survey, 80 per cent of parking spots in the Auto Mall loop are occupied for an average of six hours at a time, presumably due to employees parking during their shifts.

Parking spots on the street are for customers, not employees, said Coun. Holly Back.

“I believe that employers have to take some responsibility for their staff parking,” she said, adding that many Auto Mall employers “didn’t seem too willing to take that responsibility.”

There is rampant speculation some auto dealers use their parking spots for the cars they want to sell, according to Darrell Mussatto.

“I’ve got assumptions, I don’t have any proof,” he said.

However, at least one dealership holds parking spots overnight, according to Mussatto.

“There’s one dealership I will not name; at the end of the day they take their used cars and they put them on the street,” he said, explaining employees swap spots with the used cars each morning.

There are 410 on-street parking stalls in Harbourside, including 138 in the Auto Mall. More than half of the spots are unrestricted. There are time limits on one-third of Auto Mall spots but the limits are rarely enforced over concerns that handing out tickets will push Auto Mall employees into the rest of Harbourside.

Hawkers Wharf, a temporary home for as many as 40 food businesses and a dining area, is set to open later this year. Harbourside is also scheduled to take on approximately 300,000 square feet of commercial development over the next 10 years.

Council voted 5-2 to institute pay parking, with Couns. Pam Bookham and Rod Clark opposed

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LETTER: Casino not condos at North Van’s Harbourside development

LETTER: Casino not condos at North Van’s Harbourside development.

Dear Editor:

Why does the City of North Vancouver not allow casinos to be built? They are constantly whining about money woes for their pet projects.

They are also making decisions about density that go way beyond the OCP to accommodate the shortfalls. Seems like a “no brainer” to me.

A casino in the empty lots in the auto mall would make perfect sense. The idea of putting hundreds of residences in that location is very simplistic and shows this council has no real vision for our city.I can just hear all the people who move there, crying about the noise and lights as soon as the shipyard starts full production. This location was never meant for homes. The traffic in that area is already at its limit.

We are soon going to be hit with a huge bill for the sewage treatment and with the Harper government in charge in Ottawa, we will be footing that bill ourselves.

The city would receive 10 per cent of the revenue from a casino.Maybe the citizens will wake up before the next municipal election and vote for new blood.

Terry Muldoon

North Vancouver

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Voices comment:  Or, as a friend said to me, they could put a Casino with the hotel and condos.. It would give people something to do when they can’t get out.


North Vancouver approves new $400 million waterfront neighbourhood with 800 condo units

North Vancouver approves new $400 million waterfront neighbourhood with 800 condo units.

North Vancouver City Council has approved a new waterfront neighbourhood on Harbourside Drive, bordered to the south of North Shore Auto Mall. The vote on the re-submitted rezoning proposal came down to a 5-2 vote that gave the mixed-use development the green light, go-ahead.  *Voices comment: Councillors Bookham and Clark opposed, in part due to reasons further in this article*.

The 18-building, 1.16 million square foot Harbourside Waterfront development project will be built by Concert Properties on a 12 acre site consisting of:

  • 800 residential units, including 700 for market residential and 100 for affordable rental
  • 216,000 square feet of office space
  • 55,000 square feet of retail space
  • a 100,000 square foot hotel

The buildings will be no more than 27.6 metres in height and proponents have promised a LEED Gold standard certification. It will also fund a new one acre City-owned park, improve the existing greenways, dedicate an additional 2.5 acres for public spaces that will weave between the buildings, enhance the shorelines, and construct waterfront boardwalks and pier extensions to provide access to water.

Altogether, the $400 million project will be similar to the scale of Vancouver’s Olympic Village in Southeast False Creek and the Village emerging around the Richmond Olympic Oval.

However, the project’s location and its allocated density is highly questionable due to its relatively inaccessible location. Road access to the new neighbourhood is limited to only Fell Avenue (4 lanes) and Bewicke Avenue (2 lanes), which intersects with an active ground level rail crossing that will undergo developer-funded safety improvements.

Harbourside Waterfront departs from the region’s typical transit-oriented development of how mixed-use forms of residential and commercial are built adjacent to high capacity public transit infrastructure like SkyTrain. For North Vancouver, it has previously chosen to build density along Lonsdale Avenue, which is served by a high concentration of bus routes and the SeaBus terminal.

As no public transit is planned for the new waterfront neighbourhood, Concert Properties will implement a new ‘frequent’ private bus service to the SeaBus terminal in an effort to ease concerns over car traffic, parking demand and accessibility.


Harbourside gets council approval

Harbourside 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.

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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Harbourside Hearing Heated

A momentous decision that could impact the City of North Vancouver for years to come – was not made Tuesday.

Concert Properties has spent the last four years pitching and refining a project that would bring 800 strata and rental units and more than 300,000 square feet of commercial space to the strip of land south of the North Shore Automall and bordered by Bewicke Avenue.

Four of the project’s buildings could stretch between 70 and 90 feet.

Council heard one last round of public comment from the project’s champions, who consider the development a great use of the city’s waterfront, and detractors, one of whom objected to the use of the term waterfront.

“The city of North Vancouver has no jurisdiction and no governance . . . no authority to deal with the future of that site,” said Dave Watt, pointing out the actual waterfront is under the control of Port Metro Vancouver.

The real estate agent questioned the need for the development. There are currently 454 apartment-style condominiums available for rent in the City and District of North Vancouver, not including townhouses, according to Watt.

Concert Properties president Brian McCauley said his company does not build without significant pre-sales. Also, while North Vancouver may have a seven month supply of rental stock, the Harbourside development would be built over 10 to 15 years.

The site currently allows a floor space ratio – which measures total floor space against the size of the lot – of 1.0. The project would boost that ratio to 2.2, which was good news for project supporter Ron Spence.

“High density is an indication of a successful city. Think about Manhattan, London, Paris, etc. If I think about low density, then Detroit comes to mind,” he said.

Spence’s only objection was the lack of a recreation centre embedded in the project.

The development’s proximity to train tracks constitutes a tragedy waiting to happen, according to former mayoralty candidate Ron Polly.

Polly implored council to install a pedestrian overpass at Bewicke Avenue at the applicant’s expense.

“I have seen what happens at railway crossings. I have seen it and people and trains do not mix,” he said.

Coun. Guy Heywood asked how Concert would react if a pedestrian overpass was added to the project at this late date.

McCauley said he’d be disappointed but would work with city staff.

The project includes bike lanes, pedestrian walkways and a car share program, but none of those measures can alleviate the gridlock choking Harbourside, according to Amanda Nichol.

The project also includes a 24-seat community shuttle bus, which would offer complimentary service from Harbourside to Lonsdale Quay. The shuttle would cease operations once TransLink beefs up service in the area.

If the project is approved, Concert Properties would shell out approximately $28.5 million for parks improvements, an upgrade to the Spirit Trail, public art, and road work, as well as other improvements.

The project will add life and vibrancy to an area awash in potential, according to neighbourhood proprietor Louis Gervais.

Many speakers at Tuesday’s meeting complimented the project but questioned its location.

“I think this is a really attractive proposal that’s in the wrong place,” said Fred Dawkins. “It’s plopped down in the middle of industrial land where we need to generate jobs.”

The project’s second and third reading could be debated by council as early as April.

© North Shore News

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