February 20, 2019 11:40 pm
Updated: February 21, 2019 12:38 am

Closing West End business laments community plan’s move towards rental density

WATCH: Construction of a new rental tower has begun in Vancouver's West End neighbourhood, but as Nadia Stewart reports, not everyone is happy about it.

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Construction has begun on the first purpose-built rental tower under Vancouver’s new West End Community Plan, but at least one nearby business says affordability in the area still isn’t being addressed.

The 21-storey tower at 1500 Robson St. will provide 128 new rental units for an area that is sorely in need of them, including 42 units designed as two- and three-bedroom suites for families. Best of all, the building will be pet friendly, which was driven home by the presence of two dogs at Wednesday’s groundbreaking.

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“By increasing the supply and diversity of housing in highly desirable, family friendly, transit-connected neighbourhoods, we are taking a step in the right direction and moving towards making a city that works for everyone,” Mayor Kennedy Stewart said.

READ MORE: Rental task force recommends ban on renovictions, not allowing stratas to restrict rentals

The building will include more than 5,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on the ground floor, along with a gym and a rooftop patio.

The project has an expected opening of early 2021 and Stewart promised more projects like it won’t be far behind as the city looks to increase rental density in the West End under the community plan.

WATCH: Coverage of affordable housing in Vancouver on Globalnews.ca

But as the groundbreaking ceremony took place, just doors away the owners of Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware on Robson were packing up their long-running store, victims of the upzoning that will make many of those projects possible.

Karen and Jane Tennant announced their store would be closing back in December 2017 after more than 30 years in business, citing a nearly 93 per cent property tax increase earlier that year. That amounted to over $130,000 in taxes at the time, which was higher than their rent.

READ MORE: Robson Street store closing after 93 per cent property tax increase

On Wednesday, Karen Tennant said the two-storey building Chocolate Mousse called home was sold for more than $75 million, $25 million more than the property’s assessment in 2017.

She said the city needs to look at how the community plan is edging out businesses that can’t handle the uptick in costs.

WATCH: (Aired Dec. 18, 2017) Rising property taxes force businesses to close on Robson Street

“It needs to be little stores and big stores and big new high rises,” Tennant said. “It needs to be a community of everything meshing together. It can’t be all new.”

Stephen Regan, executive director of the West End Business Improvement Association, lamented the loss of Chocolate Mousse but said doing anything to save the business or others affected by the community plan is out of the association’s control.

READ MORE: West End community plan approved by Vancouver city council

“If the zoning and the speculation have come to your property, there’s almost nothing that can be done once those wheels are in motion,” he said.

“For many in the West End, we wanted revitalization,” he said, adding the BIV will be working with the city and the province to minimize the effects of the transition to the community plan.

As she surveyed the empty shelves inside Chocolate Mousse, Tennant said she just hopes other businesses don’t have to go through what she just did.

“[The city] needs to address that,” she said. “They have enough information. They need to address it.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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