Developer Wesgroup refers to the River District as “the Lower Mainland’s best-kept secret.”
But the massive chunk of former industrial land stretching along the Fraser River below Marine Drive from Kerr Street to Boundary Road is going to become very well-known over the next 20 years as 7,000 homes are built and the total population swells to as much as 15,000 to 18,000.
Less than 10 per cent of the 52.6-hectare property is currently occupied, but the next residential phase of the multi-family project is launching this month.
The 296 homes in two concrete buildings, one of which is a highrise while the other is a mid-rise, are part of the One Town Centre that will be the core of what is one of the largest, master-planned communities in North America.
While the River District is smaller than the 82.5 hectares of Concord Pacific’s development around False Creek, it’s Vancouver’s last large-scale neighbourhood project and it’s also the last big waterfront property.
River District was planned after a discussion with local residents about what they’d like to see in an area that is three times the size of Granville Island.
Wesgroup owner Peeter Wesik highlighted his firm’s intent to build a community, not just housing.
“What we’re doing is building a setting that attracts people that make the community,” he said Wednesday.
Wesik pointed to the things at River District that will attract people: schools, walkability, nature and shopping, or “a place to have your breakfast, do your banking, have a cup of coffee.”
Services like a grocery store and bank will be part of the new town centre and its plaza. There will also be a high street of shops down toward the water and 10 hectares of park space — which is bigger than Gastown. There’s already a community centre and an energy utility that will help heat homes.
Architect and developer Michael Geller is familiar with the area, because he was a real-estate consultant for MacMillan Bloedel in the 1980s when it was selling what was then the White Pine mill site.
“I don’t think I would have ever envisioned a community of the scale that this is turning out to be,” he said.
But Geller likes what he sees, particularly that the River District has been planned as a complete community. “My sense is that it’s going to be very successful,” he said.
The River District won’t be restricted to owners only, because it also includes affordable rental housing.
According to the city, out of 55,800 rental-housing units in Vancouver there are only about 500 three-bedroom units. The city announced Wednesday that it would encourage more such units by waiving the development cost levies on new, three-bedroom units with a size limit of 1,044 square feet.
Source: Vancouver Sun