Four years after West Point Gray Village’s longtime Safeway grocery store closed, it is now proposed to redevelop the sprawling three-acre T-shaped property into a major mixed-use redevelopment with 100% rental for its component residential.
If all goes according to plan, in about four years, this would provide the struggling retail village with a new infusion of residents to support businesses and give the area new vibrancy. It promises to be the catalyst for the regeneration of the village, with the addition of up to 1,030 new residents, as well as commercial spaces for new businesses, including a replacement grocery store.
The potential number of new residents on the site is equivalent to approximately 10% of the total population of the Point Gray neighborhood.
BentallGreenOak unveiled its preliminary design concept for 4545 West 10th Avenue – between Sasamat Street and Tolmie Street – during an open house on Tuesday evening. The property is owned by Sun Life Financial.
Proposed future condition:
The proposal calls for four buildings reaching five storeys on the northwest plot, a pair of 14-storey buildings comprising a grocery store podium with the largest central plot, and a six-storey building on the northeast plot.
There would be a total of 530 secure rental units, including 424 market rental units and 106 moderate income rental units under the city’s Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Project (MIRHPP). Under the MIRHPP, the city stipulates that at least 20% of rental housing floor space must be dedicated to moderate incomes – defined as households earning between $30,000 and $80,000 per year.
These homes would provide the area with a much-needed rental supply, which is being strained by the huge demand from University of British Columbia (UBC) students. The rental vacancy rate in Point Grey/Kitsilano currently hovers at just 0.9%.
A substantial grocery store reaching approximately 38,000 square feet is offered, making it significantly larger than the old Safeway. The proponent indicated that the chains are showing significant interest in re-establishing a grocery store there, but have not yet reached the stage of selecting an operator.
Four smaller retail units would also be constructed to activate the west 10th Avenue frontage, restoring commercial continuity to the strip with uses such as cafes, restaurants, and other small businesses.
The proposal includes various public spaces such as internal pedestrian pathways framing the west parcel, including a north-south pedestrian connection between West 9th Avenue and West 10th Avenue, and a 3,200 square foot public plaza overlooking a retail unit on the retail, West 10th Avenue, and the seven-story residential building constructed in 1995. The central plot is also set back significantly along West 18th Avenue to establish an 18-foot wide sidewalk.
On the roof top of the grocery store in the podium of the central parcel, a large interior courtyard — accessible from the third level — will serve as a private outdoor amenity space for residents.
At the open day, Mark Whitehead, a partner at local architecture firm Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership, said the buildings are “not monolithic”. On the north side, the upper levels are terraced toward West 9th Avenue to reduce shading on both the street and the surrounding single-family neighborhood.
Entrances and private patios to the townhouse rental units will further activate the internal pedestrian pathways and provide frontage to 9th Avenue West.
Overall, the proposal calls for a total floor area of approximately 468,000 square feet, establishing a floor area ratio density of a floor area that is 3.63 times larger than the lot size. A LEED Gold green building standard will be targeted.
Two underground levels will provide 464 vehicle parking spaces – including approximately 140 vehicle parking spaces for grocery needs – and 1,060 secure bicycle parking spaces.
When asked if the redevelopment could provide additional public benefits, such as replacing a new West Point Gray branch of the Vancouver Public Library (currently located just east near Sasamat Street), Vice – President of BentallGreenOak, David Roche, said the municipal government has indicated a preference for generating MIRHPP units, and these affordable housing units effectively fulfill the public interest component of the project.
Following the current pre-application public consultation stage, the developers will submit a formal rezoning application to the City of Vancouver this summer. The application could reach a public hearing with Vancouver City Council sometime next year, with construction potentially starting in late 2023 or early 2024 for completion in late 2026 or early 2027.
Over the past two decades, businesses in West Point Gray Village have struggled with the neighborhood’s stagnant population growth, soaring business property taxes, and the completion of significant new retail and dining options – including the Save-On-Foods grocery store in Westbrook Village – within the UBC campus. By dramatically reducing the need for students, faculty, and staff to be off campus, on-campus businesses directly provide West Point Gray Village with cutthroat competition.
West Point Gray Village was previously the de facto “college shopping village” for groceries, essential shopping, and dining needs for college students, especially those who live in on-campus student housing. Prior to 2001 it was the only and largest shopping center west of Dunbar Street.
The downturn in the three-block commercial strip — evidenced by the high number of vacant storefronts — accelerated with the closure of the Safeway in 2018, the demolition of commercial buildings in 2019, and then the pandemic. This large site has been vacant for three years.