Approval pending for the 344-unit tower development proposed for the Safeway site at Lonsdale Avenue and 13th Street

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Decision expected next week on North Vancouver condo project

Brent Richter

The City of North Vancouver council is expected to decide next week whether to approve an ambitious redevelopment of the Safeway store at Lonsdale Avenue and 13th Street.

Onni Group is proposing to build 344 condo units in two towers of 17 and 24 storeys, atop a two-storey commercial podium including a new grocery store and 40,000 square feet of office space.

The proposal would almost double the density allowed by the official community plan, and follows council rejection of a 2010 Onni plan for the site that was even larger.

In exchange for approval for the increase in density, Onni is offering 44,000 square feet of non-profit housing (approximately 12 units), child care space, a $1-million contribution to the city’s amenity fund, a connection to the Lonsdale Energy Corporation (the city’s area heating plant), infrastructure upgrades to the surrounding streets and utilities, $250,000 in public art, use green building standards, and additional commercial space.

Onni had the backing of most in the crowd earlier this week as city council sat through six hours of public comment.

Many speakers said they looked forward to the addition of child care space and non-profit housing, the boost that would come to the city’s core with such a massive revitalization project, and the potential to bring down housing costs in the city by increasing supply.

Onni also won support from members of the business community, several of whom said that a lack of commercial office space is driving large employers off the North Shore.

And the president of the neighbouring Grande condo’s strata council said the majority of her building’s residents approve of Onni’s plan, and that it was much improved from the 2010 design, which featured three 17-storey towers.

But critics argued the new proposal is too tall, too dense and too ugly.

“I promised myself 12 years ago I would not come back to council, but on Oct. 26 I opened the North Shore News and saw this monstrosity facing me. I was really angry and I thought I should come address it,” said former councillor John Braithwaite, who was one of the first to speak.

Braithwaite urged council to hold out until Onni came up with a more suitable project.

“It’s got to be better designed. Incidentally, developers shouldn’t be telling this council, or any council, what they’re going to give us and what they’re going to get. You’ve got to listen to what the people are saying,” he said.

High on the list of concerns for even cautious supporters of the proposal was traffic. The plan calls for 55 per cent of vehicle traffic to enter the site via westbound 13th Avenue, and 45 per cent, including all delivery trucks, to enter via 14th. Residents called that a traffic nightmare for what is now a pedestrian-friendly street.

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