Few neighbourhood shopping centres in southwest B.C. are as cute and prosperous-looking as Edgemont Village. Set deep in an affluent residential zone of the District of North Vancouver, Edgemont offers 90 or so shops and services — a kids’ bookstore, gift shops, a high-end produce market, and a dozen banks and financial offices to help residents manage their money.
My co-tourist, Fred Armstrong, used to live down the hill and he brought me here for the first time in my life. We ate a fresh, home-made lunch at The Bakehouse, looking out on the front lawns of some detached houses, and enjoyed it. As a tourist from faraway Maple Ridge, I decided that I can recommend Edgemont as a place to visit and stroll through. Fred pointed out that even the Edgemont Drive gas station, with its two-bay car repair shop, manages to fit into the charming streetscape.
A day or two later, a colleague who lives in Edgemont spoke enthusiastically about the street concerts and street fairs that happen nearly every week during the warm months. He said that the Edgemont public library is very busy; North Vancouverites, or Vancouverers, are among the most dedicated library users in Canada.
Perhaps I’m being churlish, then, when I suggest that Edgemont is not really an urban village. We have written of urban villages here as offering walkable, transit-friendly alternatives to the car-dependent lifestyle. In my optimistic imagination, the successful urban village combines middle-class (if eccentric) residents with seniors on fixed incomes, young people and transit-dependent working people. Edgemont ‘s customers approach by automobile, from the upper slopes of North Van, or perhaps from neighbouring West Vancouver, British Columbia’s richest municipality measured by average income. There are maybe half a dozen medium-density housing complexes around the village, with nothing targeted at seniors or renters. In other words, while it’s a cool place, it lacks diversity in housing or people.
The District of North Vancouver official plan identifies four “town centre” zones in the municipality that are slated for intensive mixed use. For Edgemont, the municipal plan may permit one or two more high-street condo developments on Edgemont Drive; and the District’s new transportation plan suggests that transit service will become more frequent over time. Otherwise, the residents of Edgemont’s comfortable streets can be fairly confident that densification will not arrive at their doorsteps any time soon.
[Update: consultations around a neighbourhood planning study for Edgemont Village were launched February 16, 2013.]
[This is post #12 in our Urban Villages series. By the way, the “urban village” is treated on this site not as a commercial area, but as a walkable mixed-use area centred on a set of services. Livability in an urban village is a function of housing availability for a diversity of folks, public transit, civic amenities and incentives to walk and cycle as well as a range of commercial services. ]