North Van approves Lonsdale sales centre, but some councillors ‘disappointed’
Some council members opposed opening of real estate office, preferring more ‘active’ street-level businesses to promote vibrancy
By Tom Eley
A ground-floor property on a busy North Vancouver street will finally get a new tenant after sitting vacant for three years, but not every member of city council is happy about it.
City of North Vancouver council voted on Feb. 27 to approve a temporary use permit allowing a new tenant to move into 1311 Lonsdale Ave, which has been empty since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local real estate development firm Three Shores will soon operate a sales and leasing office there.
It was Three Shores’ second attempt at the permit, after council rejected their initial application on Feb. 6.
Coun. Shervin Shahriari, who voted against Three Shores’ original application, said he changed his vote when the motion was reconsidered three weeks later because the permit conditions had been amended, allowing Three Shores to occupy the location for three years instead of six.
“It has been empty for three years and will only be occupied for three years,” Shahriari said.
Three Shores needed council’s approval for the permit, because the property’s current zoning only allowed childcare or “retail service group 1A,” a category that includes “more active commercial and retail business uses that would facilitate more foot traffic and frequent drop-in services, such as retail stores, service shops, and restaurants,” according to the staff report before council.
“These uses would help facilitate a more activated street frontage along Lonsdale Avenue,” the report says. “Less active uses such as standard business and professional offices, and by definition, a sales office, are not included in this definition.”
Barry Savage, one of the principals of Three Shores, said the property met all the company’s criteria, and being on the ground floor “is vital to the success of marketing centres.”
Savage said the company could use cafe-style furniture and large-screen video screens to make the storefront more lively.
Coun. Tony Valente said he supported the application because it “addresses an empty storefront and gets something into the location.”
“I have been a proponent of active streets,” Valente said. “I support it because the unit has been lying empty for three years.”
The two councillors opposing the company’s second application were Couns. Holly Back and Don Bell.
Back said she was “pretty disappointed to see this temporary use permit.”
“We were adamant that the streetscape had to be animated,” she said. “We were very clear that we wanted animated space on the ground, and when I go by and it is all dark, it is very upsetting.”
Coun. Don Bell said the real estate sales office might help reanimate the area in the short term, but he worries it will not contribute to the neighbourhood’s long-term goals.
“The character of Lonsdale is the mom-and-pop, and funky little shops that make it interesting,” Bell said. He said he is concerned that if the city ended up with more of these real estate sales offices, “it would de-animate Lonsdale.”