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The Ridge has finally been taken

January 5, 2014

Evidence of trench warfare? Looking south into the ditch of the Arbutus Ridge development.

By the looks of things today the battle for the Arbutus Ridge is finally over. Who lost is open to discussion but the developer, Cressey, definitely won. I can only hope it was a bloodless victory.

The decisions leading up to the redevelopment and demolition of the 63-year-old landmark Ridge shopping and recreational complex. located on Arbutus Street at 16th Avenue. were certainly cold-blooded, but it was just business after all, right?

The existing businesses tenants such as McDonald’s and Ridge Garden which were all pointedly not given a opportunity to be involved in the new development might disagree.

Construction on the the 49- to 52-unit “Arbutus Ridge” condo is scheduled to be completed some time in 2015, with the single retail tenant opening soon afterwards.

There can only be one, maybe two tops

Originally Cressey announced the Arbutus Ridge development would have mixed retail on the ground floor. In September it was announced that Cressey had reached an agreement with the grocery store chain Loblaws to occupy all of the development’s approximately 20,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.

A Cressey spokesperson characterized the area as being “generally underserviced by food stores.” This will certainly come as news to the Choices supermarket and their standalone bakery both located around the corner from the Ridge development, a mere five blocks west on 16th Avenue at Trafalgar Street. Not to mention the Safeway located to the South on Arbutus at 29th Avenue — only 13 blocks away.

When the high-end grocery store Meinhardt Fine Foods — a long-time fixture on South Granville Street — opened a second location in the existing Ridge Centre back around 2008, it never came close to succeeding. When they finally closed the Ridge location in December of 2010 it only came as a shock to people who’d heard Meinhardt had signed a 25 year lease for the space.

There are some of us who believe that the South Granville Meinhardt location will disappear when the last rich, white, Shaughnessy “cave-dweller” disappears — the store was tailored to their tastes. It’s questionable whether Meinhardt could flourish anywhere else.

But it sure didn’t help the Meinhardt Ridge location that there was a large, well-established supermarket just five short blocks away.

Loblaws must mean to crush at least Choices. There isn’t enough business for the both of them.

Putting all their empty nest eggs in a new basket

The same press release announcing the Loblaws deal trumpeted the fact that all but four of the 49 condo units were already spoken for. It explained the “vast majority” of buyers already lived within a 15-block radius of the project.

The marketing language refers to so-called “downsizers” and “lower maintenance apartment living.” Suites are described as 1,200 square feet on average.

This development sounds like it’s aimed at aging boomers who’s kids have finally left the nest, which, admittedly has to be a growing market.

Cressey also points to the benefit of a “landscaped public open space to be built on City of Vancouver property fronting the development.” That can only be two thin parking lots located across from the site of the Ridge development on the east side of Arbutus.

Ridge development (gray), parking lots (yellow), CPR right of way (ochre) and tracks (red).

Those parking lots are bounded by Arbutus on their west side and 111-year-old train tracks to the east. The tracks are owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, as is the land either side of the tracks. According to a Vancouver Courier item, the City of Vancouver has had the legal right since 2006 to say how that CPR land will be used and zoned.

Currently stretches of the tracks, which run about 11-kilometres, are popular for jogging, dog-walking and the blackberry bushes which grow like weeds on either sides of the tracks, which no train has set a wheel on since 2001. Click the images to enlarge them.

Looking north at Cressey’s excavation for the Arbutus Ridge development.

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