West Vancouver planning Ambleside densification with more housing
Three possible scenarios are being considered to densify the Ambleside neighbourhood of West Vancouver with more housing.
The new building forms would generally be new mid-rise buildings with heights ranging from five to nine storeys, with each option greatly varying in the number of buildings of a certain height.
High-rise towers are not being considered by District of West Vancouver staff as they have “identified height as a sensitive topic,” based on their past experience with other planning efforts.
West Vancouver has long been associated with stagnant population growth, and its businesses — especially in the Ambleside retail district — have brought to attention their growing challenges with retaining and attracting employees. West Vancouver and other North Shore communities are increasingly dependent on a labour force based in another jurisdiction, or even across the bridges.
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According to the municipal government, Ambleside has about 7,500 residents or nearly 20% of the entire jurisdiction’s population.
Nearly half (48%) of Ambleside’s population are seniors, with the area’s average age hovering at 58 years — much older than even West Vancouver’s overall averages. Moreover, 45% of the municipality’s low-income seniors live in Ambleside.
A lower proportion of residents in the neighbourhood are part of the labour force — four-in-10 residents (39%), compared to 54% overall in West Vancouver. There are about 3,000 jobs in Ambleside, including the Municipal Hall, representing 21% of West Vancouver’s total jobs, but a smaller local labour force to support local businesses.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of Ambleside residents are low-income — higher than West Vancouver’s overall proportion of 14%.
Just 10% of Ambleside residents are between the ages of five and 19 — well below the municipality’s overall proportion of 18%.
The average household size in Ambleside is 1.8 persons, which is smaller than the municipal average of 2.5 persons. A majority (57%) of households in Ambleside are single-person.
New additional housing would allow the growing number of seniors in the area to downsize and remain in the community, provide a local labour force for struggling businesses, and support broader housing affordability considerations in the jurisdiction.
Although Ambleside has a skyline of older high-rise towers, currently, over 80 existing buildings in Ambleside are higher than four storeys, with most ranging between five and nine storeys. Many of these buildings are aging and nearing the end of their lifespan.
Moreover, Ambleside is home to 90% of West Vancouver’s secured purpose-built rental homes, with three of the four buildings in the area now over 40 years old.
There are currently 3,300 apartment units, 240 ground-oriented units such as townhouses, 235 mixed-use units, and 300 single-detached homes in the entire area.
When it comes to how working residents in Ambleside get to work, 22% take public transit and 12% walk or bike. According to the municipal government, residents in Ambleside are about 50% more likely to commute to work using public transit.
In 2019, due to local opposition, West Vancouver Council rejected TransLink’s plan to bring the R2 RapidBus service west of Park Royal to serve the Ambleside and Dundarave areas. Subsequently, TransLink redirected its planned investments towards the future R6 Scott Road RapidBus in Surrey and Delta, which will launch in early 2024.
Here are the three densification options being considered for the Ambleside Local Area Plan:
This option would generate 14 five-storey buildings, 13 six-storey buildings, 12 seven-storey buildings, five eight-storey buildings, and three nine-storey buildings. The high street in the area would be shortened, with a focus on Marine Drive from 14th to 17th streets.
The mix of housing would be established at 60% apartments in mixed-use buildings, 20% mid-rise apartments, 10% low-rise apartments, and 10% ground-oriented.
The generated heights would entail 10 six-storey buildings, 10 seven-storey buildings, three eight-storey buildings, and two nine-storey buildings.
These new mid-rise buildings would be located on either end of the retail district to “bookend” the area and create a “gateway” from both the east and west. Moreover, the development pattern would follow natural waters and slopes, potentially allowing for north-south flowing creeks in the area to be naturalized and daylighted in the future.
The mix of housing would be 40% apartments in mixed-use buildings, 10% mid-rise apartments, and 50% ground-oriented.
Expect seven five-storey buildings, 22 six-storey buildings, six seven-storey buildings, five eight-storey buildings, and one nine-storey building. The full length of commercial sites along Drive would be retained.
The mix of housing would be 45% apartments in mixed-use buildings, 40% mid-rise apartments, 20% low-rise apartments, and 15% ground-oriented.