There is no question that this development near the northern end of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in North Vancouver’s Maplewood Village area will be the largest single development project in the history of the North Shore.
Local developer Darwin Construction is working with the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation to develop a 45-acre site at Dollarton Highway, which includes the site of a former international high school campus currently temporarily used as a 250-bed student housing complex for Capilano University.
A rezoning application recently submitted to the District of North Vancouver outlines the proponents’ highly ambitious mixed-use plans for the project – the North Shore Innovation District (NSID).
There will be 18 buildings, built over several phases, ranging in heights of between two and eight storeys, with the vast majority of the buildings higher than six storeys. These forms are similar to the scale of Vancouver’s Olympic Village.
The resulting density creates 2.338 million sq. ft. of total floor area, including 713,544 sq. ft. of residential space, 73,459 of live and work space, 56,295 sq. ft. of hotel space, 978,831 sq. ft. of ‘innovation office’ space, 86,157 sq. ft. of ‘innovation industrial’ space, 278,641 sq. ft. of ‘innovation education’ space, 56,295 sq. ft. of service space, 19,066 sq. ft. of retail space, and 132,456 sq. ft. of recreational space as the new and relocated facility of the North Shore Winter Club.
The project’s site area is divided into two distinct components – the Innovation District Heart (the southern portion of the site) and the Upper Bench (the northern tip of the site).
The Innovation District Heart is described as the “heart” of the development and “home to the majority of employment uses” while the Upper Bench immediately below the Windridge Plateau is “primarily designated for employee-focused housing, with live-work and home-based business opportunities at grade.”
Overall, the residential portion of the project includes between 786 and 900 homes, and about half of the units have two bedrooms or more for families.
There will be a mix of affordable and market rental housing, and employees working within the NSID will receive a 10% below-market rental rate. These employees also have a priority offering for any condominium units in the new district.
As well, this project promises to provide much-needed student and faculty housing in the North Shore, with 200,000 sq. ft. of additional residential floor area set aside for these groups.
As for project’s employment potential, the combined commercial spaces could hold up to 4,500 jobs, making it one of the largest employment centres in North Shore.
Space set aside for innovation education uses could potentially become a satellite campus for Capilano University, along with other education-related uses such as a daycare, co-working, labs, and research facilities.
This employment and residential density is balanced with ample plazas, parks, and other public spaces.
According to the developer, the site includes 34 acres of open and natural spaces, with a 1.2-acre central community plaza acting as the main focal point of activity.
This plaza will have pre-built infrastructure for markets, festivals, and other events, such as a wood-decked stage with electrical connections and mounting points for speakers, banners, and temporary lighting.
A large central space in the plaza will act as a multifunctional space, with seasonal uses that include a water play spray area during the summer and an outdoor ice skating area in the winter. For the Christmas season, in particular, there could be a large Christmas tree lighting event and a holiday-themed market.
This central plaza will also be activated by the placement of anchor innovation office uses and retail around the public space.
Other major public space and community benefit elements include a new 1.7-acre, so-called ‘Hillside Park’, 6.5 kms of multi-use trails that connect to existing trails in the North Shore, and $7.5 million in community amenity contributions.
Wetlands and other water features are located on the northwest and southwest corners of the site, and a new creek will also run through the development.
New recreational facilities for the area will be provided by the new North Shore Winter Club on the southwest corner of the site, where Capilano University’s temporary 6.5-acre student housing complex is located. This portion of the NSID development is tied to another major Darwin Construction project – the redevelopment of the existing site of the North Shore Winter Club at 1325 East Keith Road.
A replacement facility for the North Shore Winter Club could include new swimming pools, ice rinks, tennis courts, and other recreational facilities. However, such a facility on the site requires the District Council’s approval of an amendment to the Official Community Plan.
To support the new activity from the development, a new road network will run through the site, and Dollarton Highway running along the frontage of the property will be significantly upgraded. The arterial roadway will be raised by two metres to create a flood-resilient transportation corridor, and its capacity will be doubled from two lanes to four lanes.
Additionally, a new Berkley Road connector will link Dollarton Highway with Mount Seymour Parkway.
Proponents for the project say their plans are modelled after the successes of Seattle South Lake Union Innovation District and the Boston Innovation District.
As well, one of the intentions of the NSID is to provide the unique commercial space required to attract and keep businesses and jobs in the North Shore.
“The North Shore has incubated a number of category-defying firms in the fields of outdoor recreation such as cycling, recreational and outdoor equipment, apparel and the technologies that support them,” reads the application.
“However, as these enterprises gain regional, national, and international prominence and scale, the are forced to seek distribution centres and head offices outside of the community where they have grown due to the lack of available office and industrial space to meet their needs. NSID can provide a magnetic new place for these businesses to co-locate, allowing them to both raise their profile and support their ability to reach new clients and attract new talent.”