West Kitsilano praying for options on its cultural spaces

Kitsilano in Vancouver | Photo: Shutterstock

Kitsilano crossroads

When the West Kitsilano Residents’ Association met at St. James Community Square for its annual general meeting last week, it did so conscious that the building itself – home to a number of non-profits and community groups – is at risk.

Trinity United Church owns the property at West 10th Avenue and Trutch. Since 1994, Trinity has leased it to St. James Community Square Society as a kind of social enterprise (proceeds from the lease support the congregation, which operates Heartwood Community Café in Mount Pleasant, its place of worship on Sunday afternoons).

The church is mulling options for its Kitsilano property, according to Doug Goodwin, executive secretary with the United Church of Canada BC Conference. A sale is one option, stoking fears of the building’s loss on the heels of the Hollywood Theatre’s closure and demolition of the century-old General Gordon Elementary school in favour of a seismically sound replacement.

“We are concerned,” Larry Benge, co-chairman of the residents’ association said. “It has been a vibrant part of our neighbourhood for many, many years.”

The situation reflects the deeper changes taking place in the area, where anticipation of a University of British Columbia rapid transit line has boosted property values, driving redevelopment along Broadway.

“There’s a lot of activity in that Broadway corridor because of the excitement around a future transit line,” said Brady Fleguel, a principal of appraisal firm Burgess Cawley Sullivan & Associates Ltd. “The values are increasing extremely fast, and I expect another massive bump next year.”

For example, since 2013, the assessed value for the single-storey property at 2979 West Broadway that Shoppers Drug Mart will be vacating later this year for digs across the street has risen to $5.5 million from $4.1 million.

Retail mix

The latest Lower Mainland retail space numbers offer some curious insights.

Colliers International’s year-end survey of the region’s open food-anchored shopping centres points to the North Shore as the region’s tightest market. Its 1.7% vacancy rate is the lowest of any sub-market in the region. Tenants also enjoy a $45 spread in lease rates on commercial retail units (CRUs) – a greater range than for any other market.

Out on the street, it’s a different story. While space along Lonsdale has held its own, Cushman & Wakefield Ltd. reports that retail space along Marine Drive posted the sharpest drop in rents in the region.

Vancouver’s hip Main Street strip was the only other market to decline. Upper-end rents lost a mere $5 a square foot; bottom-end rents rose by an equal amount. By contrast, Marine Drive rents were cut by $20, to $45 a square foot, and lower-end rents were unchanged at $25 a square foot.