Which is stronger: your desire for a new Harry Jerome rec centre or your aversion to a pair of 28-storey towers?
That’s the question facing City of North Vancouver residents following council’s decision Monday night to advance an 802-unit Upper Lonsdale proposal to public hearing.
If approved, Darwin Properties would build two 81-metre-tall towers as well as a trio of six-storey residential buildings and a five-storey commercial building on the patch of land occupied by the current Harry Jerome rec centre, the Silver Harbour Seniors’ Activity Centre, and Norseman Field. Pending council’s approval, Darwin would pay the city $183 million to lease the land for 99 years. Much of that money could go towards the new $210-million Harry Jerome rec centre project.
Council voted 4-2 to push the project forward despite the vociferous objections of Coun. Craig Keating, who said the community did not ask for a rec centre with a 50-metre pool or a curling rink.
The project is slated to include a medical office building, restaurant, grocery store, and a child-care facility totalling 22,700 square feet of retail and 73,500 square feet of office space. The project’s floor space ratio – which measures total floor space against the size of the lot – is 2.5. That density was: “never asked for and never imagined,” Keating said.
Keating also noted that council declined to include a pool in the John Braithwaite Community Centre – a fact Coun. Pam Bookham also pointed out.
“That to me argues the greater need for a pool (at Harry Jerome),” she said.
Responding to Keating’s argument that the new Harry Jerome rec centre will end up serving the entire North Shore, Bookham noted that North Shore residents seeking recreation frequently cross municipal borders. “If it can be enjoyed by others, so be it,” she said.
Council’s support of dense highrises in recent years has necessitated a major rec centre, according to Bookham.
“We are building more multi-unit housing, the units are smaller, people who are occupying those units need spaces like recreation centres and parks in order to make life on the North Shore livable.”
Coun. Linda Buchanan suggested the current rec centre plans are too grand for the area.
“This is not a community centre,” she said.
Despite her opposition, Buchanan praised aspects of Darwin’s proposal, which includes 80 housing units to be allocated to a non-profit organization of the city’s choosing, a child-care centre with 37 spaces, and an extension of Crickmay Park along Lonsdale Avenue to East 21st Street. The development would also include 486 units of market housing, 124 market rental units, 99 units for seniors in assisted living and 13 affordable rentals.
“It’s going to crush this community with the amount of density,” Buchanan said.
The 28-storey towers are a way to maintain green space, according to Coun. Holly Back.
“Instead of going short and fat, I like to go tall and skinny,” she said. “It’s hard to count how many storeys they really are once they’re up in the air.”
Coun. Don Bell took the opposite view, suggesting it would make more sense to spread the density over the site. But despite his misgivings about the 28-storey towers, Bell voted in favour, noting that heights could be reduced following the public hearing as long as the development’s density doesn’t increase.
The project requires several amendments to the official community plan to change land use designations and maximum building heights. Currently, the ceiling on the site is 18 storeys.
Bell also stressed the need to move forward with replacement of the Harry Jerome rec centre, suggesting that keeping the current pool warm and the ice frozen will cost the city “substantial monies” in the future.
The original Harry Jerome rec centre was built when the city’s population was around 27,000, Coun. Rod Clark pointed out, noting the city’s population has doubled since then.
“This council in the main has supported incredible increases in density up and down Lonsdale, to the benefit of the development community,” he said. “Here’s an instance where we’re benefiting the citizens of the city.”
However, Clark added that council needs to maintain an open mind during the public hearing. “If they come in here swinging a bat saying: ‘We don’t want more than 18 storeys,” well, I guess that’s what we have to consider. And if that’s the case, we won’t have enough money to do Harry Jerome.”
Darwin’s development is interdependent with the new rec centre. The final phase of Darwin’s development isn’t set to go under construction until the new rec centre is open for business, ensuring there’s no disruption in rec centre service.
The public hearing is scheduled for June 18.
Mayor Darrell Mussatto did not attend the meeting.