A long running debate over a chunk of land in East Vancouver could be coming to a resolution.
Vancouver city council is holding a public meeting Nov. 4th where plans for the Norquay Village neighbourhood centre will be presented for the first time.
The centre would potentially change the look and feel of the neighbourhood, converting houses into high-density urban living.
Finding common ground between residents and the city on the proposed redevelopment has been the biggest stumbling block so far.
The neighbourhood centre will be based at the current site of the 2400 Motor Court, just south of Nanaimo and Kingsway in the Renfrew-Collingwood area.
But it would also include re-zoning about 200 total acres; approximately the equivalent of 180 football fields.
“Not everybody has the luxury of living in single-family housing to raise their kids,” said Karen Kreis.
She is a member of the Norquay Working Group, a body made up of residents and businesses that has been working with city planners since 2009.
Pressure on housing
Land is scarce in Vancouver and home ownership can be a distant dream for many. Although the city has been heralded as the most liveable in the world, it’s also one of the most unaffordable.
Neal LaMontagne, senior planner with the city said the boundaries of Norquay redevelopment would be about a 10-minute walk from the neighbourhood centre. This is important to the idea behind the plan to make Kingsway more pedestrian friendly.
Since discussions began about redevelopment, residents have been asking what kind of services will accompany an increase in population.
Norquay already has a higher population growth compared to the rest of the city.
As the plans stand now, 15,000 sq. ft. of indoor space will be reserved as a versatile community gathering space. The city also promised to “crow-bar a grocery store” into the neighbourhood centre, said LaMontagne.
Residents are still asking if this is enough to accommodate more people in an area already lacking in services.
After failing to collaborate with city planners, some members of the working group have consulted with their own architect to draw plans for a neighbourhood centre.
Dave Harlow, working group member and long-time resident, accused the city of not listening.
“The city wants public input, unfortunately planners have to go thru [sic] the motions that they have talked to the public.” he wrote in an email.
Kingsway has been a thoroughfare into the city since the beginning of Vancouver.
Residents are concerned the area’s history would be lost with new development. It includes the city-owned 2400 Motor Court, a sprawling symbol of mid-20th century car culture that has been featured in films and TV shows.
Fast forward to present day on Kingsway. Garbage litters the street and graffiti marks the territory. Women in mini-skirts and high heels lean in to idling cars’ windows off the six-lane road.
On the corner of Nanaimo and Kingsway sits the old El Dorado Motel, nothing more than a gutted façade waiting on a demolition permit.
Soon, and independent from the Norquay Village plan, three new condominiums totaling 40 storeys will be built on the corner.
In the city’s view, Norquay has “lost its natural organic means to grow and support the community,” said LaMontagne.
As Vancouver strives to be a greener city, it looks toward building up rather than out.
In the case of Norquay, by redesigning its land to accommodate more people in a limited space, the city hopes to lower the cost of homes.
The term “EcoDensity” is thrown around to describe the city’s initiative to promote living closer together to save money, space and reduce greenhouse gases by encouraging more services in walking distance.
But in the case of ecodensity and Norquay, it’s easier said than done.
LaMontagne said that even once the plan is approved by city council, it would take decades to implement.
The redeveloped site just up the road at Knight and Kingsway has done little to raise confidence in the concept of a neighbourhood centre on Kingsway.
Mostly everyone agrees something should be done with the neglected space along one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares, however it’s finding the way to go about it.
LaMontagne said the residents were asking, “It wasn’t so much we don’t like what you’re doing, [but] can you pull it off?”