Construction of on-campus housing may start next fall

Proposed Capilano University Village in Purcell Woods will include 60 bedrooms as part of student housing

Christine Beyleveldt // News Editor

Less than a month after the first batch of students moved into Capilano University’s new off-campus residence, the school is already looking into options for its first on-campus housing.

The real estate development company, Woodbridge Northwest Communities, is proposing a Capilano University Village where the townhouses at 1923-1959 Purcell Way, a section of Purcell Woods, stand today. At a housing information session held at the University on Sept. 12, Woodbridge Northwest Chief Financial Officer Kevin Johnston, Architect Bryce Rositch, Landscape Architect Stephen Vincent and Traffic Engineer and Transportation Analyst James Lao from Bunt and Associates unveiled their plans to the public.

Woodbridge Northwest put in their application for redevelopment to the District of North Vancouver and started taking early public feedback in November 2016. Their application was brought under review in July.

The rendition shows a six-floor condominium tower, three and four-floor townhouses, 60 dormitories for CapU students…

The rendition shows a six-floor condominium tower, three and four-floor townhouses, 60 dormitories for CapU students adjacent to Greg Lee Way and an amenities building to be shared with the neighbouring strata. Also included are plans for a swimming pool, clubhouse and children’s play area. The student housing, which was designed with input from the University over the last 18 months, includes kitchens so students can cook and won’t be forced to obtain meal plans. At the Dollarton Highway residence meal plans cost $2,130 per semester.

Fewer than 115 students are currently living in the off-site residence at 4240 Dollarton Highway, which can house up to 250 students. Even though only a small percentage of CapU’s student population have taken advantage of the accommodations, it’s a step towards seeing the housing needs of students met.

Johnston explained that Woodbridge Northwest knew CapU was facing a housing crisis. “When we first started on this project, we met with the VP, and he was the first person to kind of tell us what need Capilano U had for housing and the problem that it was causing for the University,” he said. Johnston attributed the University’s declining enrolment to the lack of housing options available to would-be students, something president Paul Dangerfield is equally concerned about.

“Partnering with Woodbridge Northwest allows CapU to offer students a housing choice on campus in a timely way,” Dangerfield commented. “Longer-term plans include exploring options for both on and off-campus housing. CapU community support is needed to bring these plans to reality.”

Kristen Braun, a student in CapU’s Early Childhood Education program, lives in Purcell Woods with her husband and two young children, and they will be directly affected by Woodbridge Northwest’s proposed complex. “We’ve been in the neighbourhood for four and a half years and it’s become home, so it means that we’re looking for a new home,” she said. Her son has also just started kindergarten, and depending on where they have to move to in the next six to 12 months, he might have to move to a new school as well.

Braun and her husband both voted in favour of selling. The dissolution of the strata for the section of Purcell Woods that would be demolished to make way for the new complex was approved in July. She explained that the assessment fees on the property, which was built in the 1970s and is badly in need of repairs, would’ve been high. “But it’s okay,” she said, “we trust there are other places out there for us and we’ll be able to find some community again wherever we move.”

For most tenants who currently live in Purcell Woods, one major concern is how traffic and parking will be affected since only 74 additional parking stalls have been included in the proposal. 1923-1959 Purcell Way currently has 90 units and Woodbridge Northwest plans to expand to 184 units, including 60 student bedrooms, when all is said and done.

Lao explained that the average North Vancouver unit has between 0.9-1.1 parking stalls, and their plan allows for 1.5 stalls per unit. Every tenant would have at least one stall but there will be enough available that more tenants will be able to have two or maybe even three parking stalls.

Students living close to campus also won’t need to commute or drive to school, Lao said. He added that they plan to widen the sidewalk and add loading zones to increase traffic flow along Purcell Way, and encourage people to transition towards different modes of transportation, including public transit and cycling.

Furthermore, Vincent explained that Woodbridge Northwest has worked with two arborists who have assessed the trees on the lot, several of which have root rot. Thirty-three trees will be retained and the remaining 176 removed during construction. Rostich aims to be sensitive to the neighbours and carry out sustainable practices. They plan to remove invasive species and carry out understory planting, because beneath the canopy the ground is largely bare. Trees surrounding the property will be maintained however, the architect aims for sensitivity to the surrounding forest and neighbours.

As Woodbridge Northwest moves ahead, they are gathering feedback on the project and hope to have a public hearing sometime this fall. If approved, they aim to begin construction in late 2018 or early 2019.

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