Appeared in the North Shore News – February 26, 2016
I interrupt a half-written diatribe on the West Vancouver waterfront for a different diatribe.
Here are three money-spinning strategies for West Vancouver revival. Sure to alienate some faithful readers, all seven of them. And free. If I had a lot of professional initials after my name I’d demand $100K.
One: Old proposal, but like a fine whisky aged in sherry barrels.
When, interviewing new West Van planning director Jim Bailey, I began repeating this brilliant idea, communications spokesman Jeff McDonald quickly jumped in. He’d checked this column’s archives. Had done his homework.
It’s ingenious but obvious: Attract (international?) money to build an international-quality hotel above the Upper Levels Highway near West Van’s premium Salmon House on the Hill.
The big draw? It would be, (though not exclusively), a luxurious magnet for Whistler-bound skiers.
Many arrive jet-lagged at Vancouver’s outstanding airport in the dismal dark or the grey six hours of our winter “sunlight.” So lure them. Of course with the fluffiest comforts world-class travelers expect. But also with the pitch that after a cosy sleep and great, bountiful breakfast to stoke their anticipated calorie-burning pleasures on Whistler’s slopes, and with the reluctant rise of the fuzzy brass doorknob of the sun, they can anticipate a matchless experience they would have missed had they whipped through during the other 18 hours of the “day.”
Even the most jaded would be awed by the exhilarating drive to Whistler in their rented Bentleys, clutching to Howe Sound’s contours and witnessing the stunning spectacle of sea and mountains. Which have their grey-tones, painterly beauty even on sombre days. Repeated, the view not quite so dramatic, returning to Vancouver International.
But more: Spin-offs for Hollyburn, Seymour and Grouse (on a clear night, dinner with a sparkling view) mountains. Night skiing for the real keeners who just can’t wait. Snowboarding, hiking, summer mountain biking. Packaged two- or three-day side visits. Advertise!
Also a must-see descent to Marine Drive for its cool bars and dazzling night life – build it and they will come (in late afternoon/evening when there’s actually parking available). That could fire up Mayor Michael Smith’s Ambleside and Dundarave renewal goals more than the bureaucratic BIA (Business Improvement Area) initiative.
Why hasn’t a top hotel chain glommed onto this idea? Has town hall ever pushed it? Or does West Van’s drawbridge mentality head off serious marketing before it’s allowed to be thought of?
Two: You’ll love this. Or not. A casino for Horseshoe Bay. Perfect location: The B.C. Ferries parking lot, with the casino built over it, minimizing annoyance to neighbours and keeping the footprint. A lesser alternative: The site of the Boathouse, the restaurant perhaps combined with the casino.
Horseshoe Bay – dare I say my favourite West Vancouver area – has it all. Excellent, existing road access. Striking beauty. Friendly. Easy charm. People-on-the-move holiday atmosphere. (But town hall shamefully ignores the village’s litter.)
Its reach: North Shore residents, of course. South-of-the-inlet gamblers who bet they can cross Lions Gate Bridge. Ethnic Chinese from the British Properties.
A very big draw: Access by foot passengers – from the Sunshine Coast, Bowen, and much of southern Vancouver Island – without the ferries’ repelling vehicle costs, then short steps to the casino. And those giddy, fun-loving Victorians could drive to Nanaimo for a day, park, and return there by nightfall to live it up with their ill-gotten gains.
A casino could explode spin-off business growth in all West Van. Smart marketing, anyone?
I see some readers frowning with moral indignation. But I rate gambling as among the lesser societal sins. (A view corrupted by my just winning $20 on Lotto Max?) Compare the big, rising societal costs of drug and drink use, smoking, obesity, you name it. A little flutter isn’t so wicked.
Three: This’ll knock your socks off with its originality: Turn Ambleside’s historic Ferry Building into … a ferry building!
Yes, for the proposed West Van-Vancouver service. Build a perfect replica on the Vancouver side. Charming, cheeky, cheerful. A draw for tourists. Face up to it, Vancouverites: For all its international prestige the city, a bit seedily raffish when I arrived 53 years ago, is now stiff, unimaginative, funless – especially for children.
My criticism of West Van’s renewal goals goes beyond whether town hall is favouring a couple of business areas over others, or, inevitably, some businesses over others within those areas. Or its waterfront vision and eagerness to bend bylaws for private dollars and more tax revenue. It’s that they’re dully conventional.
© Trevor Lautens, 2016