Development of Innovation District Delayed

Community hub that would replace CapU’s current student residence put on hold until after municipal elections

Annalisse Crosswell, Associate News Editor

Capilano University unveiled a brand-new student residence at 2420 Dollarton Highway in 2017 a mere month before the Fall semester began. With a large percentage of the student population commuting an hour or more to classes on the North Shore and a large part of the CapU community being international students, the residence was a major step for the University. Now Darwin Construction, the company that owns the site, and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation are proposing a long-term plan to develop the location and the surrounding area.  

The Innovation District would have trails, restaurants, a hotel as well as a daycare and employee housing for North Shore companies. Darwin is currently looking for feedback on their proposal from the community, showing off their vision for the development through a series of open houses in the on-site gymnasium.  

The open houses have been going on all summer and will continue for a short period of time into the fall dependent on the interest of the community. The project has already received a fair amount of attention. This development is one of the largest proposed for North Vancouver, and there is contention surrounding the effects it may have on the community. Darwin has sought to address concerns about traffic congestion, something many North Shore residents are concerned about, and the housing crisis. President Oliver Webbe says that these concerns are addressed at the open houses where the current provincial plans for infrastructure are outlined. 

Darwin plans to have car-sharing programs available, provide a shuttle to CapU and the company is also currently in talks with Translink about a partnership, which would bring the Berkley Road B-Line from Phibbs Exchange right into the Innovation District, four kilometres away.  

Darwin’s partnership with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation evolved through a long history of existing in the same community, Darwin being a local company, the business side of the partnership began a few years ago when Darwin constructed a community center on Tsleil-Waututh land. “[It’s] an exciting opportunity to bring the two groups together and develop a project,” said Webbe, “which can benefit the nation and the future of their community and also the North Shore.”  

The open houses offer members of the community an opportunity to see the proposed site – most of which is available online – and to speak with individuals involved in the process to better understand every aspect and give feedback. A key concern for the CapU community in this regard is how it would affect students currently living in residence. The proposed 220 units of student and faculty housing would be offered solely to North Shore post-secondary students and faculty. 

Earlier this year the proposal was taken to the North Vancouver council for debate. Due to timing issues, an official decision regarding rezoning requirements has been postponed until after the Oct. 20 municipal elections. Despite this, the developers anticipate beginning phase one of construction, which would continue until 2022. Students currently living in residence would continue to live in the current space until phase one ends, at which point they would be moved into new residence halls with the space available to accommodate more students. 

The province has committed to approximately $200 million in infrastructure, which will be complete before the first building at the Innovation District. With the prospect of 11,000 units of housing, as well as an all-encompassing community infrastructure plan, the development itself is also an effort to bring North Vancouver residents closer to work and home. 

“[It’s] a model that’s been successfully done throughout the world at other locations,” said Webbe. “It’s really the future of business.” The project holds exciting prospects for the community, which will certainly be important for CapU and many of its students. 

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