Drive around Edgemont area, and it doesn’t take much time to notice that construction is in full swing here. Hard hats and the hum and thrum of heavy machinery mark the place. Another tell-tale sign appears when you try to find a parking spot. “Absolutely no trades or contractor parking here” is a warning sign that some business owners have placed outside their parking spots. Edgemont used to have an unhurried and relaxed pace. But the long and feverish pace of development has changed that and put unexpected pressures on the local businesses. Some businesses say the never-ending construction means an old established base of customers, who came for the quaint charm, are avoiding the area and might never return.
Feverish construction has led to parking problems but many say it’s good for long term
Others take the long view and are willing to swallow the bitter pill in the hope that new construction will refresh the area and bring families who in turn will be the new customers. When it’s all over and the word gets out, perhaps even the old customers may return. Meanwhile, the “absolutely no parking” signs for contractors hint at the frustration that some business face as they try to safeguard parking for their staff and customers.
Erik Jensen is the president of Sprucehill Contracting and also of the Edgemont Village Business Association. He says such signs go up because there is no way for a business owner to find out if the car parked outside is that of a customer or a sub-contractor working on development project nearby.
The developers have rented special areas where the contractors are supposed to park but that clearly doesn’t happen all the time. Loss of parking spot invariably means loss of customers and a frustrated staff. If customers can’t find parking the next time they come around, they may not return.
“It would be quite hard even for the bylaw to enforce parking short of having someone standing there all the time. I bet you some days they have more than 100 people working on sites. This is not small-time construction, and it requires huge number of workers to get the job done. And for businesses, it’s pretty difficult to know who has parked outside as the cars are not marked. You could have a worker driving in their family car,” he says.
The parking problem is one symptom of a much larger issue, and that is the pace of development in the area, he says. Constant road closures, noise, a massive increase in traffic and, of course, parking are just some of the issues Edgemont has had to grapple with in the last few years.
The development companies are trying to give back to the community through event sponsorships, he says, but it’s the District of North Vancouver council that needs to reconsider how much development should be allowed in the area. “The issue is that the district has approved a staggering amount of development and our mayor was quoted as saying that you have to live with it. I don’t think any thought was given to the impact this would have on the business community. We have customers who have started to avoid the village because there is just too much going on and a general sense of chaos. We should slow the pace, and there should be restriction on the number of dwelling units that can be built at any given point. There should also be strict timelines and heavy fines for those who exceed those timelines,” Jensen says.
Robin Delaney, the owner of Delaney’s Coffee, says he is not against development but rather worried about the amount of it happening because it has heavily impacted his business. “I have had hundreds of customers tell me they avoid the village and they simply circumvent it. Merchants have spoken to the District of North Vancouver and told them to give us a break but they are non-committal, and they just don’t say anything. There are too many projects going on at the same point,” he says.
In 2011, DNV identified Edgemont as a village centre, which provided the impetus for Edgemont Village Centre Refresh, a plan to treat the village as a central node around which development could take place. “By preserving Edgemont’s low-rise character, encouraging diverse housing options, supporting one-of-a-kind retail stores and businesses, and improving pedestrian and cyclist access, we hope to strengthen and celebrate this vibrant community,” says the district.
This celebration of Edgemont means more than 100 condos and townhomes have been approved by the district in the area, along with commercial ventures. Despite the parking and crowding issues, some business owners believe the development would benefit the village once the dust settles and new people move into the area. Donna Grocott, who runs the BC Playthings, says while customer base has shrunk, this is a change that would be good for the community in the long run.
“We are growing. We are taking off. And it’s all par for the course. The district needs more people so they can get more taxes, and I think they are trying hard to ensure everyone gets along. We have to be patient, and I think the new families and stores will bring people into the area, and they will be our customers,” she says.
Tamera Clark, the owner of Bjorn Bakery, also feels patience would pay in the long run. The development might pose a challenge now, she says, but change is welcome, is needed and is inevitable. “If the place of development was slow, you will find people who will complain about that as well. I think everything is going to be excellent in the long run,” she says.
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By Gagandeep Ghuman