City of North Vancouver to borrow $56 million for new North Shore Neighbourhood House

The construction of the new North Shore Neighbourhood House project — also known as The Hub, with new community space, affordable housing, and public parks — will initially be financed by a municipal loan of up to $55.7 million.

Through the provincial government’s Alternative Approval Process (AAP) for municipal governments, the City of North Vancouver is looking to borrow money to cover the cost of the design and construction of a major portion of the affordable housing project and the public parks.

In late January 2024, the municipal government provided final approval for Catalyst Community Development Society to be the housing operator for the affordable housing component. This will be a redevelopment of not-for-profit organization North Shore Neighbourhood House’s existing building at 225 East 2nd Street in the Lower Lonsdale district.

The non-profit organization’s existing two-storey building — located near the southeast corner of the intersection of East 2nd Street and St. Georges Avenue — was built in 1967 and contains services and support programs for youth and seniors, including a childcare facility.

The immediate area has already seen major changes; the redevelopment site is immediately south of the 2023-built, six-storey The Bowline building containing 159 secured purpose-built rental homes, developed by GWL Realty Advisors.

The City-led redevelopment of North Shore Neighbourhood House will create a mixed-use complex comprised of an 18-storey mass timber tower fronting East 1st Street and a six-storey building fronting East 2nd Street.

A 29,000 sq ft space within the three-storey base podium of the 18-storey tower will serve as the new replacement and expanded facility for North Shore Neighbourhood House. This includes a childcare facility for up to 37 kids, a child development program for up to 250 kids with development delays, community programs for youth, teenagers, and seniors, and a new North Shore Food Bank facility, which serves 1,100 households weekly. Within the upper 15 floors of the tower, there will be 180 secured purpose-built affordable rental homes.

The new six-storey building will contain an additional 89 secured purpose-built affordable rental homes and a respite centre managed by The Health and Home Care Society of BC (CareBC). The respite centre will have 18 overnight beds and 25 adult daycare spaces.

The entirety of the affordable rental housing uses in both new buildings, totalling 269 units, will be operated by Catalyst, which is also overseeing the development process on behalf of the City.

In February 2024, the provincial government announced the redevelopment’s 18-storey affordable rental housing tower by the City of North Vancouver and Catalyst will be amongst the first projects supported by the province’s new BC Builds public housing program, which focuses on expediting shovel-ready projects on under-utilized properties in partnership with non-profit organizations and municipal governments.

BC Builds offers low-cost repayable financing and direct non-repayable funding for expedited affordable housing projects for middle-income households earning $84,780 to $131,950 annually for a studio or one-bedroom unit or $134,410 to $191,910 annually for a two-bedroom home or larger. All projects supported by BC Builds will have a target of middle-income households spending no more than about 30% of their income on rent.

The main contractor for the redevelopment began construction work on the first phase in Fall 2023, which is the six-storey building. Construction on this first phase is expected to reach completion by late 2025.

The second phase entailing the 18-storey tower with the new North Shore Neighbourhood House will begin construction in late 2024. Construction on this larger second phase was originally scheduled to begin in 2028, but City Council’s decision in January 2024 significantly expedited the timeline to a construction start of this year.

The final third phase entails completing a new public realm and new public parks — Kings Mill Walk and 1600 Eastern Parks.

The six-storey building is being constructed on the footprint of the previous community garden, which has been relocated off-site, while the 18-storey tower will be built on the current footprint of Derek Inman Park. Both new buildings front the St. Georges Avenue side of the block, enabling the existing North Shore Neighbourhood House building to remain open during construction.

The existing building will be demolished after the 18-storey tower reaches completion, and its footprint will become a portion of the new replacement park space.

“The North Shore Neighbourhood House has been supporting people in our community for 85 years,” said Mayor Linda Buchanan.

“They have made use of every square inch of their facility to deliver top-notch food security programs, child care, seniors programs, youth drop-ins, as well as support and shelter for vulnerable people in our community. They are in need of a new home that meets today’s accessibility and sustainability standards so they can continue to support people well into the future.”

As for the AAP process to provide City Council with the mid-term permission to borrow up to $55.7 million to expedite the 18-storey tower and the new public parks, this electoral process essentially works as a counter-petition. If eligible electors within the City of North Vancouver are in support of the loan, they do not need to take any action. However, electors who are opposed to the measure of borrowing money for the project can fill out an elector response form.

Under provincial legislation, for the AAP process, the municipal government is required to take additional major steps if more than 10% of the electors submit a signed elector response form. City Council can either hold a referendum within 80 days or go back to the drawing board on their proposal.

The total number of electors eligible to participate in this AAP is 42,325, which means over 4,232 signed elector response forms would need to be received in order to trigger the additional major hurdles. The AAP form intake began last week, and the deadline for submission is 5 pm on April 22, 2024. All forms can be submitted by mail or in person.

The AAP is expected to be approved, without creating new project hurdles, but it represents a substantial investment for a municipality with only about 60,000 residents.

The City has also recently borrowed $117 million to provide the construction financing it needs to build the new replacement and expanded Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre, which carries a project cost of about $230 million. The municipal government is expected to pay off its loan by selling the property of the existing Harry Jerome centre, with the new complex currently being built on the former footprint of Norseman Park, just across the street, to allow community and recreation programs to remain during construction.

The new Harry Jerome centre is scheduled to reach completion in late 2025 and open in early 2026.

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