Appeared in the North Shore News – June 6, 2014
So what would you prefer for the renamed West Vancouver? Grosvenorville? Or Grosvenor City, which sounds classier? Aw, not serious. Just imagining the Londonbased company as the pioneer – surpassing old John Lawson – of the new, new West Vancouver, through its glittering, block-long project on the south side of 1300-block Marine Drive, gateway to a projected greatly revitalized Ambleside.
That said: What about the north side? Well, the present “gateway” is a big swath of dirt, an excavation straight across from Grosvenor’s up-market project. Shell owns it. A seasoned businessman, my Agent 6Voar42C, believes Shell has no intention of selling this once-and-maybe future corner service station site.
The rest of the block consists of time-worn but well-kept 1950s-era shops. Hardly a million-dollarplus view for respected Grosvenor’s milliondollar-plus condo buyers. A problemo, no? Grosvenor has been contacting north-side owners – but stop right here if you leap to the conclusion that the venerable English company aims to expand its 13th and Marine beachhead.
I didn’t leap to the conclusion, but I leaped to the possibility. In fact if I were advising Grosvenor (for a substantial consultancy fee) I’d urge: Buy out the seven north-side landlords and build a boutique hotel to complement your southside condos, adding more fancy-pants shops.
Of course as a citizen I’d urge no such thing. The north-side businesses are a varied lot, including good restaurant Chez Michel, chic Caliente Fashions, Malkin cleaners (since 1923!), a popular veterinary hospital, Hands On Alterations, etc. Some just won’t sit well under Grosvenor’s shadow.
So I’m afraid my questions to unbelievably wealthy Grosvenor about any interest in the northside block bordered on the brusque. (What does “unbelievably wealthy” mean? This: Grosvenor is a self-described London-based “privatelyowned property group with 17 offices in 11 countries around the world,” founded in 1677. London has the priciest real estate in the world. How pricey? Bloomberg Businessweek reports that real-estate firm Savills estimates that London’s 10 richest boroughs are “worth nine per cent more than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.” Read that again. And the Grosvenor family owns huge chunks of the richest of the rich – central London.) Grosvenor replied, coolly I’d call it: “We are contacting property owners on the north side of Marine Drive to inform them of construction plans and to meet the District of West Vancouver’s expectation that construction be carried out in an efficient manner to limit disruption.
“This communication to property owners is a standard practice and part of Grosvenor’s ongoing commitment to every community. Any other insinuation you make in this regard is factually inaccurate.”
Old-world courtesy or not, if I were a landlord such a call would remind me: Years of noise. Dust. Cranes. Lumbering trucks. Parking nightmare. Haveto lower rents, hard to keep or get new tenants. A diminishing asset. Better sell now.
Jane Edgar, wittily calling herself La Presidente of Caliente, is forthright about block tenants: “We are community. We support each other. … We aren’t just losing view, we’re losing sky.” At the gentle Christian Science reading room, one of only two in Metro, the very nice operators praised landlord Al Veljacic – who also owns Malkin, Yasmin, and Takeoff Now Travel – for his reasonable rents. Veljacic says: “I haven’t talked to anybody who’s happy about this. … I don’t want to see a corridor of buildings like the West End.”
OK, it’s business. And the world, even West Van, changes. I get Mayor Michael Smith’s blunt take that the north block “needs redevelopment. … It has taken a very long time to get someone to make a major investment in Ambleside. If you ask the merchants, this is very much needed, as business is really struggling. We need to tie the commercial area to the waterfront, as this will attract visitors.”
Smith, a hardheaded businessman in a previous life, also candidly welcomes more tax revenue from the block. Smith and council negotiated an impressive $11 million in community assets from Grosvenor.
Growth arguably benefits all. Sound theory, but it may not mollify some actual people, like north-side 1300-block landlords and tenants and view-losing residents – forgotten in the euphoria.
Meanwhile, Addition Elle, clothing for sizable ladies, last week left for Burnaby, leaving Park Royal Shopping Centre where the relentless pursuit of Platinum Card clientele marches on.
No closure for the bustling 7-Eleven at 14th and Marine: A three-year lease well below the rumoured nearly 300 per cent rent rise that nearly chased it away. A landlord may have read the story about killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
No space to detail the fun Taste of Ambleside supported by 70 businesses, sprigs of orange flowers from Da Vinci’s home shop in many hands, heavenly bites from Daikichi Sushi, Thai Pudong, Carmello’s, Blue Eyed Marys, Starbucks … too many to sample.
© Trevor Lautens, 2014