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Major Darwin development breaks ground in North Vancouver

Russell Hixson
Major Darwin development breaks ground in North Vancouver
DARWIN PROPERTIES — Lonsdale Square, a massive new development under construction in North Vancouver, aims to connect a new neighbourhood with mixed-use buildings.

A new development breaking ground this month in North Vancouver aims to provide something for everyone in the community, from senior care to affordable rental housing.

“I have lived on the North Shore since I was four and what really attracted me to this opportunity was creating a community that doesn’t just have one type of use, one that doesn’t just have luxury condos,” said Oliver Webbe, Darwin Properties president. “While that may sometimes be the most profitable, it doesn’t maybe create the greatest community.”

Darwin’s Lonsdale Square is a 6.6-acre development located in North Vancouver’s upper Lonsdale area. With 800 homes planned for the mixed-use community, it is one of the biggest projects ever constructed in the city.

The neighbourhood will include seniors housing, non-profit and below market rental housing, retail, office space, a new 2.25-acre city park and a revitalized Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre. 

Phase 1 construction on the three-phase project includes a 113-unit rental building, a partnership between Darwin Properties and Minto Properties Inc. that will include a rooftop amenity, as well as the first seniors assisted housing in the City of North Vancouver in 30 years. The Sunrise Senior Living facility will be six storeys with 100 units for assisted living and memory care.

Webbe said Darwin, founded in 1987, has always developed projects on the North Shore. He believes the pandemic has forced many to think harder about how they want to organize communities. 

“This is going to create vibrancy,” Webbe said, who noted residents will be near parks, shops, the community centre and more, creating activity all day long. 

He said recent years have seen the demand for senior housing, child care and affordable rentals climb on the North Shore.

“This was one of the most exciting projects to work on because we can combine those uses,” said Webbe. 

When the city requested proposals for the old community centre site and Darwin’s plan was chosen, the developer worked closely with the community to ensure such a large development was in line with what local residents wanted.

“I think the community was ready for this,” he said. “They understand the smart decision the city has made to use its own land to develop something to pay for the new recreation centre.”

Webbe said Darwin spent time speaking with community members about its vision for the area and listening to their concerns. Just two months ago, when residents expressed concern about an old neighbourhood tree that would be impacted by construction, Darwin halted its groundbreaking plans.

“You can do the best planning in the world, but sometimes you need to tweak things,” said Webbe. “The community really wanted that tree kept, so we went back to the drawing board.”

The team refined their design, cutting out a corner of a building to spare the tree.

“We only develop on the North Shore and whatever community it is – Deep Cove, West Vancouver, Lonsdale – we take responses very seriously,” said Webbe. “This is the community I will live my whole life in and hopefully my sons will too. It makes us more accountable and it also makes the job more fun because we can also benefit from the amenities.”

 

Follow the author on Twitter @RussellReports.

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