Four years after the Safeway grocery store in West Point Gray Village closed long ago, there is now a proposal to redevelop the three-acre T-shaped property into a large mixed-use redevelopment with 100% rents for its residential component.
If all goes as planned, in about another four years from now, it will provide the struggling retail village with a fresh boost of residents to support businesses and provide the area with new vitality. It promises to be a catalyst for village renovation, with the addition of up to 1,030 new residents, along with commercial space for new businesses including an alternative grocery store.
The potential number of new residents on the site is equivalent to about 10% of the total population of Point Gray.
BentallGreenOak revealed its initial design concept for 4545 West 10th Avenue — between Sasamat Avenue and Tolmie Street — during an open house Tuesday evening. This property is owned by Sun Life Financial.
Suggested future state:
The proposal calls for four buildings up to five stories on the northwest plot, a pair of 14-story buildings including a grocery stand on a large center lot, and a six-story building on the north east plot.
There will be a total of 530 insured rental homes, including 424 rental units on the market and 106 middle income rental units under the city’s Mid-Income Rental Housing Pilot Project (MIRHPP). Under the MIRHPP, the city requires that a minimum of 20% of the rental floor space be set aside for moderate incomes — defined as households earning between $30,000 and $80,000 annually.
These homes will provide the area much-needed rents, which have been strained by the massive demand from University of British Columbia (UBC) students. The rental vacancy rate in Point Gray / Kitsilano is currently hovering at just 0.9%.
A large grocery store of about 38,000 square feet has been proposed, making it much larger than the previous Safeway. Almoayyed noted that there was a great deal of interest from the chains to re-establish a grocery store in this location, but they had not reached the advanced stage of operator selection.
Four small retail units will also be built to revitalize the West 10th Avenue frontage, re-establishing retail continuity in the sector with uses such as cafes, restaurants and other small businesses.
The proposal includes several public spaces such as the indoor pedestrian-only paths framing the western portion, including the north-south pedestrian connection, the middle avenue between West 9th Avenue and West 10th Avenue, and a 3,200-square-foot public plaza facing the retail unit, West 10th Avenue , and a seven-story apartment building constructed in 1995. The central portion has also been substantially adjusted along West 10th Avenue to create an 18-foot-wide pier.
On the rooftop of the grocery store within the central parcel stand, a large indoor plaza – accessible from the third floor – will serve as a private outdoor entertaining space for the residents.
During the open house, Mark Whitehead, partner with local architecture firm Mawson Cattell Mackie Partnership, said the buildings are designed in a way that ensures they are “not monolithic.” On the north side, the upper floors taper toward West 9th Avenue to reduce shading on both the street and the surrounding single-family neighborhood.
Private entrances and patios to the townhouse rentals will activate the interior pedestrian-only walkways, and provide frontage to West 9th Avenue.
Overall, the proposal calls for a total floor area of approximately 468,000 square feet, which defines a density ratio of floor area to floor area 3.63 times larger than the volume of a lot. The LEED Gold Standard for green buildings will be targeted.
Two underground levels will provide 464 parking kiosks – including about 140 parking kiosks for grocery store requirements – and 1,060 secure bike parking spaces.
When asked if the redevelopment could provide additional public benefits such as a new alternative West Point Gray branch of the Vancouver Public Library (which is currently located east near Sasamat Street), BentallGreenOak Vice President David Roche said the municipal government has indicated a clear preference for generating MIRHPP units, these affordable homes effectively fulfill the public benefit component of the project.
After the current public consultation phase before applying, supporters will submit a formal application to re-apply to the City of Vancouver this summer. The application could reach a public hearing with Vancouver City Council sometime next year, with construction likely to begin in late 2023 or early 2024 to be completed in late 2026 or early 2027.
According to Roche, it is estimated that new residents of the complex will spend $3.2 million annually buying food in the vicinity.
Over the past two decades, the West Point Gray Village business has suffered from stagnant neighborhood population growth, high commercial property taxes, and the completion of new great retail and restaurant options—including the Save-On-Foods grocery store in Wesbrook Village—on the University of British Columbia campus. By significantly reducing the need for students, faculty, and staff to move off campus, on-campus companies directly into West Point Gray Village have presented very stiff competition.
West Point Gray Village was once the de facto “college retail village” for the groceries, essential shopping and dining needs of college students, especially those who live in on-campus student housing. Prior to 2001, it was the only and largest retail center west of Dunbar Street.
The downturn in the three-block retail sector — which was evident by the large number of vacant storefronts — accelerated with the closure of Safeway 2018, retail building demolitions in 2019, and then the pandemic. This large site – often used as a surface car park – has been vacant and fenced for the past three years.
West Point Gray Village is served by frequent buses, especially the Sasamat Street station for the 99 B-Line and trolleybus number 14. It is also within walking distance of various other bus lines on Blanca Street and West 4th Avenue.
Earlier this spring, the city council approved a UBC SkyTrain that creates a station site within the nearby Jericho land redevelopment, rather than placing a station on Sasamat Street to serve West Point Gray Village directly. City employees assure that there will be more housing, job-generation and ride-ability benefits from the construction of the Jericho Ground Station. The stations for both the Jericho and West Point Gray Village lands were not considered due to the high cost of construction and the expectation that the stations could compete for the same group of passengers.