In the 400-page official plan of the District of North Vancouver, Lynn Valley’s commercial area is the designated “municipal town centre.”
On the first pass, this town centre is a crossroads row of shops flanked by gas stations and strip malls. And to an outsider, it seems an odd location for the action centre in a municipality of 80,000 people. It’s closer to bear habitat than to the Municipal Hall or the District’s busiest east-west street. But there are services and public amenities tucked away in various corners, and rapid new development may bring transformation over the next three to five years.
New low-rise condos along Mountain Highway are improving the diversity of the housing stock. The Lynn Valley Village complex, developed in response to the 2011 plan, features a library and art gallery, professional offices, and a sort-of-European-style plaza with cafe tables. Most such concrete spaces in Canada are lifeless failures, but this one feels okay, at least on a late-summer morning.
Most dramatic is a construction project underway next to the Lynn Valley Centre shopping mall. Bosa, a developer, has started work on the first phase of a combined 360-unit housing complex and mall expansion. The new units, at least as shown on the current Bosa website, will take advantage of spectacular mountain views in an area where earlier developments turned their back on the hills. According to the North Shore News, the Bosa project will “revitalize” the town centre, although the exact direction is not clear. The old Safeway supermarket will go; new restaurants will pop up.
Co-tourist Robert Smarz and I visited Lynn Valley early on a Friday, stopping for breakfast at the hiker-friendly Tommy’s Cafe. After an excellent conversation with the owner about perogies and Saskatchewan, we walked a short loop around the east side of the village. Comfortable homes, some of them sprawled over two original small lots, are arranged around a network of parks and creeks. Traces remain of the original crossroads settlement that grew up here before 1930. The streets here are peaceful; the seniors’ tower and the town homes that qualify Lynn Valley as an urban village are out of sight, on the other side of the mall. The Bosa project, combined with other proposed apartment development, may create some localized parking and traffic issues, but it also promises to bring added retail services and street interest to a neighbourhood where people have money to spend.
[This is post #33 in our Urban Villages series. The District of North Vancouver has posted a video about the design system that has been adopted to govern future development of public spaces at Lynn Valley.]
I worked in an office facing that plaza area in the spring of 2013, and I can attest that it was always a lively place, with people coming in and out of the coffeehouse and the library at all hours of the day and all days of the week.