Future of Delamont neighbourhood hinges on Arbutus negotiations with CPR

The long-term future of the Delamont area of Kitsilano, where the city owns a unique collection of heritage properties from the city’s earliest days, will turn on the outcome of negotiations over the future of the Arbutus Corridor, says city planning director Brian Jackson.

The Delamont buildings at 7th and Arbutus, just blocks from a probable future transit hub at Broadway and Arbutus, are tucked along the alignment of the old CP Rail line that curves east toward False Creek. They were acquired many years ago to provide an arterial road to the Burrard Bridge, then held in the city inventory for possible park development.

A proposal by local architect Sean McEwen to make Delamont into a second Mole Hill — the heritage and affordable housing project that’s a jewel of the West End – won honorable mention in the city’s ideas competition on affordable housing.

That, and anxiety among heritage advocates about the demolition and replacement of a privately-owned property in the area, prompted me to ask Jackson what he sees in Delamont’s future.

After a review of the Delamont story with city staff in the planning department, real estate, parks and social planning, Jackson concluded it is too soon for a full policy statement to guide development because the future of the corridor is not clear.

In the short term, he emphasized, there will be “no demolition of heritage buildings,” no sale of city-owned land or buildings, continued maintenance of existing rental homes — which are affordable because of their size and location — and “thoughtful further acquisition as opportunities become available.”

But longer-term planning will require resolution of the future of the Arbutus Corridor, a transportation right of way owned by CP Rail.

The city took CP Rail all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to confirm its right to maintain the corridor for transportation. Talks have been continuing with CP Rail ever since to sort out the future of the corridor and land along the alignment not required for transportation.

Jackson notes some significant differences between the Delamont area and Mole Hill. They include the need for park space in this area, the proximity of the Broadway corridor and this site’s potential for redevelopment as a transit-oriented development, its value as a city asset, the existing community gardens and the need for resolution of the CP rail corridor issue

“The last point raised is critical to determining the appropriateness of future land uses,” says Jackson. “If the CP rail corridor is resolved in a manner which provides opportunities for open spaces, transportation and community gardens, then other opportunities are available for the city’s lands.”

Once the future of the corridor is resolved and existing community planning processes are complete, Jackson can foresee an area planning process for the Delamont neighbourhood that would “extract value, provide open space, protect key heritage assets, provide opportunities for future transit-oriented development, including affordable housing, maintain and enhance community gardens, and provide community amenities like childcare.”

If Jackson’s schedule holds, the Delamont area will remain unchanged for the next couple of years. Then, however, change could occur after a planning process, particularly if long-overdue transit investments occur on Broadway.