Seniors tower eyed for uptown gateway

Preliminary plans for 19-storeys less than the 25 allowed in White Rock’s zoning, developer notes.

Properties in the 1500-block of Johnston Road have been bought by a retirement residence company.

Proponents of a highrise retirement building eyed for the the City of White Rock’s main entrance in the 1500-block of Johnston Road gave the city’s economic investment committee a sneak peek at preliminary plans for the project last week.

PARC Retirement Living – based out of Vancouver – is in the early stages of putting together a major development permit for uptown White Rock, after finalizing the purchase of three properties at 1564 and 1554 Johnston Rd. and 1563 George St. last month.

Early plans call for a 19-storey independent seniors’ rental residence, with three ground-level storefront businesses, though Russell Hobbs, vice-president of construction and operations, told the committee Dec. 9 plans could change before the application is put forth.

“We don’t anticipate that we’ll use the full 25 storeys that the zoning allows for,” Hobbs said.

The 12 businesses currently occupying the buildings will have to vacate within about a year, according to Hobbs, who said PARC staff are working with business owners and the city to try and find new locations within White Rock.

Vic Michaluk, owner of Penguin Meats Supply Ltd. – and of the entire 1554 Johnston Rd. building it operates out of – described the upcoming change as good news for his business, for the city and for White Rock residents. The latter will appreciate that the “booming” wholesale side of the operation will be moved out of the city, he said.

“So residents of White Rock won’t have to put up with all our trucks,” Michaluk said Tuesday.

The retail store will relocate within White Rock, he added.

“We have a site in mind and we’ve signed a letter of intent,” he said. “It’s a very good thing for us all the way ’round.”

He does not see any issue with a highrise in that location, noting it will create a better tax base for the city.

“This end of town, whose view are we spoiling?” he said.

Laura Shaw, of Laura’s Fashion Fabrics, agreed the chosen site is the right place for such a project.

“I think it’s the perfect place where it should be,” Shaw said. “That was the original plan from years ago, that the tall stuff be right on 16th.”

Shaw, who opened in 1978 and hopes to relocate within White Rock, added the development would be “good for Johnston Road,” which has been the focus of beautification and upgrade talks in recent years.

“We were wanting to change Johnston Road,” she said. “This is going to give the opportunity to fix the road up, fix the sidewalk… I think it’s going to be really good.”

PARC officials expect to have the development permit submitted by the end of February, and plan to host community-information meetings in the coming months to share design concepts and gather feedback.

Mustapha Hassoun, a partner in Crispy Falafel – another of the businesses to be displaced – said that while approval of the proposal would mean relocating the business in just over a year’s time, he accepts it as a reality of leasing property.

“Things like that happen in business – that’s why you have a five-year demolition clause,” he said, adding that Crispy Falafel’s lease still has a year and three months to run.

“We should be good until March of 2017 – they cannot demolish the place before that… I can’t get mad – it’s not my building. If the guy gets over what the building is (worth) and decides to sell it, if I put myself in his shoes, I’m going to do the same thing.

“If God closes one door he opens another.”

If approved, Hobbs said construction could start by early 2017, with the retirement residence opening in 2018.

– with files from Tracy Holmes & Alex Browne

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