A letter from North Vancouver’s Superintendent of Schools….
Dear Parents/Guardians/Residents in the Argyle Family of Schools Community:
On behalf of the Board of Education, I would like to invite you to attend an Argyle Family of Schools meeting on:
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Doors open 6:30; Presentation 6:45; Discussion, Wrap-up by 9:00 p.m.
Argyle Secondary School Small Gym
1131 Frederick Road
North Vancouver BC
The North Vancouver School District is actively working towards a full replacement school project for Argyle Secondary School. As a parent/guardian of a student(s) attending school in the Argyle catchment area, and/or a resident living in the community, you have a vested interest in this project. The Board wants your support and input.
A new replacement school will be designed to provide a safe and enhanced learning environment for students and may incorporate additional community amenities. The meeting will include:
• Background information on the Argyle capital project
• A status update on the Board’s efforts to receive approval for a full replacement of Argyle
• Funding needed for the project
• Potential enhancements to the site (fields, parking, etc.) and building (area and functions)
• Opportunity to provide input and ask questions
• Next steps to move forward on the Argyle full replacement project.
The Board of Education has successfully completed full replacement projects at Sutherland (2008) and Carson Graham (2012) Secondary Schools. Now it’s Argyle’s turn! Please join us to be a part of the Argyle project.
Passion was evident at last night’s public hearing into Bosa’s proposed redevelopment of Lynn Valley Mall, a culminating point in what has been an exhaustive and exhausting journey for North Van District staff and council, the developer, and the community itself.
The overflow crowd first heard a presentation from district staff, who explained key points regarding the proposed development that would include 399 residential units in six phased-in buildings of various heights, and its context in the Official Community Plan adopted by district council in 2012.
Bosa consultant Mark Sager and project architect Chris Dikeakos next spoke to the community support they have received for the “Whistleresque” design that features natural stone and timber building materials, a terraced-back building design, three open plazas and a $4.5 million public amenity package.
Support was indeed evident from members of the public who addressed council about the development, most of whom said that the Lynn Valley core was in dire need of revitalization and the amenities that a higher-density usage of the area will bring. Some benefits quoted were more affordable housing that would give options to first-timers, downsizers, and the disabled; a more engaging, liveable town centre that would result in more people staying in the valley to do their shopping and socializing; and the preservation of our forests and single-family neighbourhoods through concentrating growth at the town core.
There were also detractors of the project and its two proposed 12-storey buildings, as well as those who liked the Bosa design but expressed concerns regarding traffic and increased density. Traffic has indeed emerged as a primary theme in this ongoing debate. Both North Vancouver District staff and Bosa Developments point to expert traffic studies indicating that new roads and other transit enhancements that are part and parcel of the project will result in a negligible impact on current traffic flow. For some people in the crowd, however, these studies were not enough to overcome their conviction that vehicular gridlock will be the inevitable result of the proposed densification.
Glenn MacKenzie stated that he is “proud to have been a critical voice” in the process, noting that community opposition resulted in Bosa’s originally proposed 22-storey buildings being drastically reduced in height. While he said that Bosa has made a good effort on its new design, though, he believes that there has been “blind acceptance” on NVD council for ongoing development and densification throughout the municipality.
Speaking in support of the proposal, longtime community volunteer Maureen Bragg said the town centre land “must be put to its highest and best use” and that “any decision we make must be an unselfish one.”
Presentations regarding what constitutes the “best use” of this valuable property continue tonight at District Hall, beginning at 7 p.m. in council chambers. The public hearing is expected to conclude this evening, with council scheduling a vote on the matter in the days to come. For more information about the public hearing process and the proposed development, click here.
The rezoning proposal for the Bosa development (1175 Lynn Valley Road and 1280 East 27th Street) received first reading at Council on Monday, March 24, 2014. The development proposal has been referred to Public Hearing, which is the community’s formal opportunity to provide input to Council.
The Public Hearing will be held on April 15, 2014at 6 pm at District Hall. The Agenda for the Council Meeting, including the Report to Council and attached bylaws, is available for review (Agenda Item 9.1) by clicking here [scroll to page 47]. For further information on the Development Application, click here.
(For our blog post about the recent public information night Bosa hosted regarding the project, click here.)
A full house packed North Vancouver District council chambers on Tuesday, March 18 for the public hearing regarding the redevelopment of the Lynn Valley United Church property.
At stake is the rezoning that would allow the church to proceed with plans for a new church building facing Mountain Highway, bordered on the north and west by a four-storey multi-family complex. Included would be 75 one, two and three bedroom units, four of which would be sold to the North Shore Disability Resource Centre at cost for use as affordable, accessible rental housing for their clients. Also included would be enhancements to the riparian area around Hastings Creek.
At the outset, North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton apologized that the public hearing was inadvertently called during the spring break vacation, the result of trying to schedule an evening in between councillors’ other travel commitments. Having heard that some of the church neighbours living in the complex at 3275 Mountain Highway were unable to speak due to the school holiday, council voted at the end of the evening to continue the matter with further submissions accepted at a second hearing night on Tuesday, April 1.
Over the course of last night’s proceedings, council heard many presenters from the church passionately speaking about their vision for the church and its ministry in the future. Rod Pearce pointed out that the church members had not spent six years developing the proposal for personal gain, but to provide Lynn Valley with an amenity that will play many roles in benefitting the wider neighbourhood, from flexible meeting and performance space to community-building programming.
“Lynn Valley United [will] in reality [be] a community centre and community amenity. But it is a community centre that receives no public funding. In fact,” he said, pointing to amenity contributions and long-term residential tax revenues, “this project will provide significant revenue for the public coffers.”
Shauna Gringke says the congregation has been learning to “do church differently” over the past few years, through such offerings as the ongoing Friday Night Live musical improv nights. “We’re generating momentum on this journey,” she said, noting that local businesses are starting to proactively approach the church to sponsor upcoming FNL seasons, recognizing the shows as unique and uplifting community gatherings.
Other people speaking in support of the project included those advocating for local disabled citizens; Suzanne Klassen of the North Shore Disability Resource Centre noted that the Metro Vancouver housing waitlist for people in wheelchairs has increased 400% over the past seven years, and called the project a “tremendous opportunity” for people to live “comfortably and securely in their own community.”
While expressing support for the redevelopment, a number of parents from the Rainbow Corner daycare housed on the church property spoke to their deep concern about the potential loss of daycare spaces in Lynn Valley. They were informed by North Vancouver District staff, however, that the church’s developer, Marcon Developments, and North Vancouver District had worked together to plan for a new daycare on site at the Lynn Valley Recreation Centre at Mountain Highway and Frederick, with the modular building financed by the developer. Should the project be approved, it was noted that the new daycare would be in place prior to the demolition of the current church building.
“Branches” resident Hazen Colbert was concerned that without a re-look at the underground parking proposal, some residents of the new complex might end up relying on street parking. A reallocation of residential versus visitor parking stalls in the planned underground lot, he suggested, would “have considerable impact on public peace.”
During the latter part of the hearing, council heard from some of the residents of the 36-unit Hastings Manor, located beside the church’s gravel parking lot. One resident brought a petition with 28 names on it, which he said represented those people in Hastings Manor who objected to the redevelopment.
Jonathan Lindsay said people in his building would be “highly affected” by the erection of a neighbouring complex, which would be half a storey in height above Hastings Manor, currently the tallest building in the area. Some of the impacts he described included the loss of sunlight, privacy, and some of the trees at the rear of the property, and an increase in parking difficulties, given that his own building does not have enough stalls and residents often rely on street parking.
Two other speakers claimed that the church trying to make money at the expense of its neighbours, and that although planners met with the Hastings Manor strata council on two occasions and had a neighbourhood information night, their concerns have not been adequately addressed. One speaker described the proposal as “ridiculous,” and said that the church should not be trying to force council to change bylaws to accommodate its vision.
As the public hearing was adjourned at the end of the evening, Mayor Walton advised the assembly that council may still receive written input on the matter. Oral presentations may also be made on Tuesday, April 1, when at 7 p.m. the hearing will take up where it left off. While people may not redeliver the same information they have already presented to the hearing, new speakers and previous speakers who have new information to impart will be accommodated. For more information about North Vancouver District’s public hearing process, and how to present, click here.
For project drawings, description, and a staff report on the proposed redevelopment, scroll to page 175 of these council minutes.
Four hundred chairs had been set out, but they proved unequal to the task of seating the overflow crowd of residents who came out Wednesday night to learn more about the Bosa Developments proposal for the transformation of Lynn Valley Mall.
photo courtesy Maureen O’Brien
Some of them had previously attended an informal September presentation, during which Mark Sager outlined the new vision Bosa had developed based on months of dialogue with the community. (For an overview of the “mountain village” design, which includes a completely refurbished shopping mall and two 12-storey residential buildings, click here.)
“I don’t know if you realize how much your input has shaped this,” said Sager as he finished his slide presentation. “We have done our best to try as hard as we can to address the community’s wishes.”
Knowing that traffic is a big issue for those people concerned about increased densification in Lynn Valley, for example, Sager announced that Bosa Developments has offered to finance the addition of an extra lane at the entrance to the Trans-Canada Highway, at the highway overpass marking the end of Lynn Valley Road, a proposed improvement that has been met with enthusiasm by all levels of government involved.
The audience question-and-answer period that followed Sager’s presentation took place under the direction of Catherine Rockandel, an independent, third-party facilitator who described her role as ensuring that all voices were heard in an environment of “respect and civil conversation.” She noted that all comments coming from the floor would be recorded and included in her report to North Vancouver District Council – though at least two council members were spotted in the audience, taking in the evening for themselves.
Comments from the floor were very largely positive, with even those opposed to increased density in Lynn Valley tipping their hat to Bosa Developments for the compromises they have made in response to community feedback. Glenn MacKenzie, one of the founders of the “Stop Hirises” campaign in Lynn Valley, called Bosa “a great developer”, and focussed his criticism not on the plans themselves, but on the whole issue of densification in Lynn Valley.
Most, people, however, seemed to think that a redevelopment of the area is long overdue. Ron McLean and his wife moved to Lynn Valley almost 50 years ago, when a house cost three times his annual teacher’s salary. Now, he says, a house costs about 15 times the typical teacher’s salary, and the eight houses around him, which used to house 23 children between them, are now home to only four children. His own kids have had to move away, with the result that he and his wife don’t see their grandchildren more than three or four times a year. “I have to agree that high rises are appropriate,” he said. “We have to share the wealth of our community.”
Ian Jarvis was next to the microphone and waved across the crowd to Ron McLean. “I used to play soccer with your son, Cam,” he said. “We were often ‘those kids’ who hung out at the 7-11.” He, too, wishes he could live back in Lynn Valley, and expressed his appreciation of the efforts being made to achieve greater housing diversity. When he saw the signs protesting the addition of high rises to the community, he assumed that 30 or 40-storey towers were being planned. “But 12 storeys, are you kidding me?” he said, prompting laughter from the audience. “That’s a high rise?”
While it is not uncommon for older, well-established residents to resist change in their neighbourhoods, many of the people speaking in favour of the proposal have in fact lived in Lynn Valley for decades. They pointed to increased community amenities, options for downsizing their housing, and the walkability of the Bosa redevelopment as attractive features of the proposal.
A resident of Craftsman Estates, who lives across the street from the mall and would be directly affected by the construction plans, also spoke in favour of the development. “I’m thoroughly impressed with the Mountain Village look and the willingness of Bosa to work with the community,” said Hazel Boyd, noting that the mall should offer a more robust business environment and that the District of North Vancouver needs more of a tax base to ensure future economic health.
There is still much to be discussed as the project is negotiated, however, including the best use of the allocated community amenity space, and ongoing dialogue about traffic management plans, aspects of which are already under way. This latter issue, of course, is not solely specific to the Bosa proposal, but an overall part of the District’s implementation of the Official Community Plan for Lynn Valley Town Centre. (Click here and scroll down to #4, Additional Information, for a link to the Lynn Valley transportation study commissioned by North Vancouver District.)
photo courtesy Maureen O’Brien
Feedback from Wednesday’s public information meeting will go back to North Vancouver District staff, who will prepare a report for council either recommending that the application be denied, or that it proceed forward to public hearing. For a step-by-step look at the whole approval process, read this post; we have just completed Step #5.)
If you haven’t yet had a look at the plans and drawings for the proposal, visit the Bosa storefront in the mall in the former pet store space, or click here. Your feedback can be sent directly to Mark Sager by clicking the orange tab at the left of the screen on his Lynn Valley Connect site.
On February 13, the District of North Vancouver’s Advisory Design Panel unanimously passed a motion of recommendation to the District Council in support of the proposed re-zoning. Public input will be taken at the public hearing stage, should the application proceed.
Last night the District of North Vancouver Council considered a staff report that detailed financial and other impacts that would result from the adoption of a five-storey town centre height restriction versus a model that is predominantly five storeys, with eight storeys allowed in key areas and limited, case-by-case exceptions of up to 12 storeys in the Lynn Valley core.
In their submission, North Vancouver District planning staff recommended the latter option, entitled the Flexible Planning Framework option. The staff report forms part of the council meeting agenda, and can be found at Item 9.1.
As noted in today’s press release from North Vancouver District, Council agreed with staff that the Flexible Planning Framework allows for the possibility of targeted town core redevelopment that will enable implementation of Official Community Plan objectives, such as improved transit and provision of community amenities, while it acknowledges community concerns that include issues such as extreme change and shading from buildings. For more information, please visit the North Vancouver Identity website or refer to the press release issued earlier today.
This graphic from the North Vancouver District press release shows maximum building height allowances voted for under the Flexible Planning Framework. The blue zone would allow for heights of eight to 12 storeys on a case-by-case basis.
North Vancouver District Council is on the hot seat as it ponders a report describing options for the implementation of the Official Community Plan (OCP) in Lynn Valley.
The report was presented at a regular council meeting on September 23, in front of a gallery of citizens representing a wide range of opinions.
The OCP, which was passed in June 2011, projects the addition of up to 5,000 people in Lynn Valley over the next two decades, and opens the door to the development of a range of low to higher-density housing options within the town centre. In September 2012, Bosa Developments accordingly submitted a preliminary application that included a 22-storey tower in its proposed redevelopment of its shopping centre property.
The resulting controversy over building heights, traffic and increased density meant everyone went back to the drawing board – including the District, which launched extended public education and feedback events in mid-2013.
The results of that feedback are now encapsulated in the recent Golder Associates report, which is available on North Vancouver District’s Identity website.
Perhaps unfortunately for council members, the report notes that there is no clear consensus amongst local residents as regards to the preferred maximum building height. While many have stated their preference for no change to the existing neighbourhood, or the inclusion of buildings that are no taller than five storeys in height, one method of calculating the feedback indicated that the 12- and 16-storey building options led in popularity.
If that’s the case, it’s happy news for Mark Sager, who was hired by Bosa Developments to collect public feedback and work with a new architect to create a proposal in keeping with what residents say they want to see in Lynn Valley. Sager unveiled the new drawings in front of a crowd of approximately 200 residents at Lynn Valley Mall on September 12. All audience comments at that event were supportive of the suggested redevelopment proposal, but Bosa Developments will not be submitting a preliminary application to the District until Council chooses between the options presented in the Sept. 23rd report.
Council deferred the vote after requesting that staff ‘expediently’ investigate the comparative economic impacts of choosing a five-storey height maximum over the other option, which allows for five through eight storeys, with the option of allowing for exceptions of up to 16 storeys in the town core.
Bosa’s revamped drawings include two 12-storey buildings and a completely redeveloped interior and exterior shopping centre. They can be viewed in the Bosa storefront in Lynn Valley Mall, in the former pet store premises, from noon to 6 p.m. every day except Sundays.
About 200 people came out on Thursday, Sept. 12 to an informal presentation that brought residents up to date on the evolving proposals for the Lynn Valley Mall of the future.
While host Mark Sager, who is handling public consultation and overseeing the new designs on behalf of mall owner Bosa Developments, emphasized that the evening was not a formal hearing or open house, it did give attendees a peek at what may be coming down the pipe.
(Mark said that Bosa Developments has “total, complete respect for the process” and won’t be submitting a preliminary application until North Vancouver District votes on the manner in which the Official Community Plan (OCP) will be implemented in Lynn Valley. Click here for our post explaining the process that takes place once an official application has been made to the District.)
The evening started with a talk and slide presentation that provided a good history of the process, including Mark Sager’s own belief that Bosa Developments’s original proposal, which included a 22-storey building, was not a good fit for Lynn Valley. He explained that the design was based on the OCP’s allowed Floor Space Ratio (FSR) of 3.5, meaning that for every square foot of land one owns, 3.5 square feet can be built on top of it.
Mark showed computer renditions of what a 3.5 FSR would look like if the Bosa property was developed with the goal of keeping buildings as low as possible. The result, shown on the screen, was shoulder-to-shoulder buildings built out to the sidewalk, each several storeys high. This, Mark indicated, was untenable and a design disaster.
Instead, company owner Nat Bosa agreed to take an economic hit and voluntarily drop the FSR to 2.5, which allows for building height to remain moderate, but still leaves room for plazas, green space and community amenities. (The current mall, by comparison, has a 1.75 FSR.)
Mark then introduced renderings of the new design, and explained some of the major changes that would ensue if it, or something similar, was approved. Important to note is that the proposed redevelopment under discussion would encompass the Zellers area, the old library, and the adjacent concrete parking garage. If passed, Bosa would purchase the old library site from North Vancouver District in a multi-million deal, money which the DNV would use to help pay off costs of constructing the new library.
Inspiring the design is a mountain village look that has outward-facing retail outlets at street level, which terrace back into higher elevations, including two 12-storey residential buildings. On top of this retail “podium” would be acres of usable green space for the building residents, while two new plazas at street level would provide gathering space for community residents.
A new, landscaped high street would connect 27th Street (where one currently enters the Safeway/Zellers parking lot) with Lynn Valley Road, while another new throughway would travel along the back of the current mall, providing a better connection from 27th to the new library and likely housing a number of ‘live/work’ studios for home-based businesses such as accountants, notaries public, etc. Parking for the redeveloped area would be underground.
The development would include approximately 379 living units, to be built over a five-year period, with the needs of Lynn Valley downsizers and younger families in mind. A 6,000 square foot community space would be included as well, for North Vancouver District to consider for uses such as a community theatre or North Shore Disability Resource programs.
This development would see a flagship Save-On-Foods go into the old Zellers location, while Shopper Drug Mart would move to the current Save-On space. The rest of the existing mall, he explained, would retain the same footprint and parking, but have a complete interior/exterior makeover, with more a more interactive, engaging street presence. He is looking at creative uses for the existing huge, flat roof, and hopes the 175,000 square feet can be transformed into a green roof or other attractive feature. And, to the delight of pedestrians everywhere, the renovation will ensure a better connection between the mall and Lynn Valley Village.
Mark is planning for a climbing wall to be situated in the mall, and hopes that existing tenants will be joined by such additions as good family restaurants and a cross-fit gym.
The floor was opened up to a number of questions and comments, all of which were supportive of the revitalization project. Linda Findlay, 25-year resident of Lynn Valley, had brought a prepared address.
“We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to live here,” she said, “Growth in our community is natural, and not any one group is going to get everything they want [in the design plans.]” Given the controversy that has surrounded some aspects of the project, she said “I would like to thank you and Nat for not giving up on Lynn Valley.”
Michael Edwards, a former president of the Lynn Valley Community Association, recalled previous occasions in which the LVCA had spoken against developments, some of which were later approved. “It wasn’t such a shocker after all,” he said of the McDonalds going into Lynn Valley, prompting laughter from the crowd. He also referred to the number of failed attempts at Lynn Valley Centre revitalization over the years, and said that Bosa’s current sketches “are the most beautiful plan [he’s] ever seen.” He did not want to see “months and months of work for naught,” and emphasized that “we have no right to stop young families from living here.”
Doug Curran commented that he had been working with people in the Lower Capilano neighbourhood to help residents understand and envision the design possibilities that could be expressed within a higher density allowance. He said that he has attended a number of meetings and listened to residents concerned by the prospect of higher buildings in Lynn Valley, and notes that he has “heard statements without foundation, without logic, and prejudicial to the future wellbeing of Lynn Valley.” He encouraged residents of all persuasions to get more engaged and informed about the process.
Some residents commented that the current mall is ‘dying,’ and Mark agreed it was a struggle to get new tenants with the existing set-up. He says the tenant businesses rue the fact that the parking lot is often full – discouraging their customers – while the mall itself is empty. Mark said his team has spent a number of hours out in the lot, talking to people parking there, and finding that it is sometimes being used as a park-and-ride, and often used for people going only to Lynn Valley Village. The latter group, he said, commonly expressed the feeling that they did not like the design of the stairwells in the Village’s underground parking, so the mall design team has taken that into account and has allowed for more open, inviting stairwells in their own redevelopment design.
After the discussion, a number of sketches were unveiled and people circulated to look at the various views and floor plans, ask more questions, fill out feedback forms and, if they chose, to add their name to a petition lending support to the revitalization. If people do want to see change, Mark emphasized, it is important for them to express their opinions to North Vancouver District Council.
Mark will be re-opening his former storefront in the old pet store premises across from CIBC, so people can drop in to have a closer look at the designs and continue to make suggestions. Also in the works is a website for the same purpose. LynnValleyLife will publicize further details, and a variety of design sketches, as they are made available.
LynnValleyLife likes to profile notable neighbourswho play interesting roles in our community. If you’d like to know more about someone who makes a contribution in our neighbourhood, in large ways or small, drop us a line at info@LynnValleyLife.com.
He tells us he’s outspoken and doesn’t beat around the bush. And with that understatement, Nat Bosa launches into a wide-ranging, hour-long interview that’s peppered with colourful anecdotes, salty language, and bold visions for the future.
Natale (“Nat”) Bosa is the owner of Bosa Development Corporation, which in turn owns Lynn Valley Centre. The company didn’t build the mall – it was purchased some years ago – but Nat Bosa is looking to rebuild it, in line with North Van District’s Official Community Plan.
Some might think it’s a small-potatoes project for a man whose decades-old company is busy building internationally. But while he acknowledges that his focus now is south of the border, where he’s had a major hand in developing areas of San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle, he says “I don’t want to overlook [Lynn Valley]…. This is home. It sure would be great to be able to drive by and say ‘I’m glad I did this.’”
Pointing to the widespread popularity of his mixed-use Newport Village development in Port Moody, Nat says that on a slightly smaller scale “we can do that in Lynn Valley. We can be proud. You think I’m doing this for myself? Listen, I’m not a young puppy anymore. I don’t need to do this… we can lease that box that’s there for something, and we’re fine.”
But Nat believes Lynn Valley mall is ripe for change. “Change is good,” he insists. “Let’s put it this way, that area is ready. Let’s change the damn suit. You’ve had the same suit on for 40 years.”
Change, of course, comes easier for some people than for others. But everything about Nat Bosa – his seven bikes, his carefully chosen cars, even his kayaks – indicates that he’s all about forward motion. Even when he was in his teens and 20s, swinging a hammer and framing houses with his brothers, he was known for being fast – “really fast, I can tell you.” Now, with dozens of successful, city-changing developments under his belt, he is known as somewhat of a visionary – a man who can look at bare land, or a run-down area, and see its potential before anyone else can.
Nat is the force behind the look and feel of downtown San Diego, parts of which he started developing in 1998. Is shaping a neighbourhood’s future a big responsibility, we asked him? “Yes,” he replied emphatically, “Big time.” He repeats himself: “Big time. Big time. I have all the finest sites in San Diego. I have them all…. I have a huge responsibility. I want to give them the finest buildings on the West Coast.”
His involvement doesn’t stop at the residential and commercial opportunities he brings to a community. Part of his San Diego commitments included the donation of an art gallery, and, near to his heart, the building of the Nat and Flora Bosa campus of the Monarch School, a place of learning for homeless children that’s the first of its kind in the United States.
Recent examples of his local largesse include a Bosa condominium prize in the current B.C. Children’s Hospital lottery, and funding that made possible the new Bosa Centre for Film and Animation at Capilano University.
“It’s a lot more fun to do that than to make the money,” he says. “I enjoy what I’m doing, but that stuff is really good. Our plan is to give away most of our money…. We want to do a lot of that, my wife and I. That’s what gets us up in the morning. Our kids don’t need us anymore, per se. They’re not kids any more, for starters.”
“The kids” are Jim, Ryan, Jason and Natalie. Jim and Ryan have followed in their father’s footsteps and have their own development companies. Jason is his youngest son, and works with his mother, Flora, who owns the Palladio jewellery store.
Throughout the interview, Nat keeps giving a tip of the hat to the patience displayed by Flora throughout their marriage. Both teenage immigrants from Italy, they met in Vancouver and wed when they were 23 and 19 years old respectively.
How would Flora describe him, we asked? Nat laughed. “ADD plus.” After a pause, he elaborates: “I would say this: I’m a different cat… I’m definitely not the easiest cat to live with. I’m quite strongminded.” He pauses, and gives us another animal analogy. “Let’s just put it this way, I’m not a little poodle on a leash…. I have to give a lot of credit to Flora, to really put up with it.”
His wife tells him that he’s ugly when he’s mad. “She’s probably correct,” he concedes. But he’s fair, he emphasizes. And what really makes him mad is people who don’t play by the rules.
He relates a story about a long-ago purchase in West Vancouver, a small lot that was already zoned for redevelopment. It didn’t require a public hearing, but the mayor at the time decided to call for one anyway – and got an earful from Nat the next day. “When you see things like this, you gotta stand up,” he tells LynnValleyLife. If a smaller company than his had been faced with such a turn-about, he points out, it could have lost its shirt. “It could destroy people. And I don’t like that.”
He doesn’t ask for or expect concessions from politicians. “I don’t want no favours,” he emphasizes in a strong voice that still bears traces of an Italian accent. “You must understand – every city says one thing: I’m incredibly fair. I just want to be treated equal to everybody else. I don’t want preferential treatment. I don’t need it.”
He just wants to be told the rules, he says, and then he’ll play well within them. That goes for his personal life, too – when building a fence around his West Vancouver backyard, his strict instructions to the contractor were to build it one inch inside the property line.
So Nat was – to put it mildly – frustrated when Bosa’s redevelopment proposals for Lynn Valley Centre were stalled last year. He describes a long history with North Vancouver District that started years ago with an invitation from then-mayor Don Bell to work together on a joint development that would encompass the new library building. Bosa financed the architectural planning, but Nat says the plug got pulled when Bell left district council to run for federal office.
His development company didn’t get involved again until after the district passed the Official Community Plan, which stipulated heights and densities. “Now, as long as you come in underneath that, or not exceed that, you think you’re safe,” said Nat. “That’s the way it works. Every jurisdiction in which I work, that’s the way it works. So we go in. We meet with staff, staff was great, the whole works… so we start going.”
The Zellers store in the mall had been purchased by Target, but as North Van District wouldn’t permit the second storey that Target required, Bosa Development knew that option was a non-starter.
“So we bought out Zellers’ lease a year early,” Nat says. “We knew they were going to leave, so we said ‘Let’s get a head start here.’ So that’s what happened. And then all of a sudden the brakes go on.” Controversy among residents had started, and the District decided to once again re-open the Official Community Plan implementation to public feedback.
“I approached Mark [Sager] after I was pretty much exhausted by what was going on in Lynn Valley,” Nat says. He asked Mark to bring his consultative style to garnering feedback that would help a new architect develop plans more in keeping with what the neighbourhood said it wanted.
He says he hired Mark to run with the ball, and Mark – a lawyer and former mayor known for his listening skills – hasn’t tossed it back to him yet. But what Nat does know about the new plans, he likes. “This here is gentle,” he says, pointing to sketches of the new Lynn Valley Centre concept. “It gives this incredible, real warm feel. It makes you feel good to go there.” He believes that the two, 12-storey buildings that are part of the revamped proposal can exist practically unnoticed by local residents, similar to the manner in which the 16-storey Kiwanis Tower blends into the landscape.
We wondered what someone who so obviously embraces change might, if given the chance, change about himself. “My wife would change all of me,” Nat laughs, but then reflects: “We all have faults. We are all very good at seeing other people’s faults, but we can’t really see our own. “ That said, with whatever faults he may have, he’s had “a hell of a life…. I’ve had a great ride. Everywhere I’ve built, it’s been accepted. Never screwed anybody.”
That’s one piece of wisdom he’s tried to pass on: “I always tell my kids one thing: never step on someone’s toes to advance yourself. Because that’s not how it’s done.”
And if anyone is in any doubt about their faults, Nat suggests they might want to pick up a putter. He advises everyone to play a little golf; he himself tends to follow each great round with a terrible one. “It’s a humbling game…. When you get upset about a putt that you just missed, you’re getting upset at you – you’re the jerk that missed it! You’re not blaming anybody else, that’s what’s good about it.”
If you wonder how the head of a company with several international developments on the go has time for golf, Nat is quick to credit his team. “I hire the finest people, I pay them well, and I expect the best of them,” he says. He likens himself to an orchestra conductor. “I don’t have many musicians, but we make great music.”
Knowing that his projects are in good hands allows him to avoid the workaholic lifestyle. “If I don’t go by the jobsite,” he notes, “that means they’re doing the right thing.”
He admits, though, that his mind is always active with work-related thoughts. We asked if he could picture an alternate reality for himself, one that didn’t see him entering the construction trade as a young immigrant. The thought, Nat says, has never entered his mind. “[Construction’s] my game. I think I’m pretty good at it and that’s what I like.” He thinks for a moment. “For me to re-invent myself….I think I’d probably be miserable at it. Of course, we adapt… but mind you, [at my age?] I’m at the bottom of the sixth inning.”
He may be turning 69 years old this Christmas Day, but the strength of his parting handshake could make lesser men weep. Our interview time is up, and Nat is out the door into the August sunshine, off to see what the gods of golf have in store for him today.
– Peggy Trendell-Jensen, editor
Mark Sager is inviting Lynn Valley residents to an unveiling of the above-mentioned designs for the proposed Lynn Valley shopping centre redevelopment on Thursday, September 12 at 7 p.m., in the old Zellers premises (access via exterior doors facing Safeway). If you are unable to attend that evening, please contact LynnValleyLife, which is arranging a sneak preview for its LVL Network members. Be sure to drop us a line at info@LynnValleyLife.com if you’d like to come!