A four-storey commercial and condo development will replace a popular bowling alley and The Ridge movie theatre at West 16th Avenue and Arbutus Street.
The three voting staff members of the city’s development permit board on Monday unanimously rejected relaxations to zoning that would allow a five-storey development.
“It was quite a slap on the wrist for the developer in that they were hoping to get five storeys and the development permit board, they actually used the phrase ‘you haven’t earned it,’” said community activist and bowler Mel Lehan.
Lehan noted more than 100 members of the community, predominantly seniors and some people with developmental disabilities, attended the initial permit board meeting Oct. 9, and dozens attended Monday’s 3 p.m. meeting even though they knew they wouldn’t be permitted to speak.
“That just shows [the passion for the bowling alley],” he said.
The permit board criticized developer Cressey for its lack of consultation with the community.
Hani Lammam, vice president of development and acquisitions for Cressey, noted consultation isn’t required by the city when a property isn’t being rezoned.
“As far as engaging the community, I think what they were referring to is that we did not engage the bowlers,” Lammam said. “[Bowling alley co-owner and operator Ken Hayden] has never approached us and said we want to be in the new project. In fact, he has said, ‘OK can I stay and can I get a rent reduction?’ That’s what he said.”
Hayden said he told Cressey he couldn’t afford market lease rates for a ground-floor space and that he would need a below ground space for an alley in a new development.
Lammam felt irritated by the development permit board’s comment that it would favour a development that included a bowling alley.
“There’s no sponsor for this bowling alley,” he said. “Nobody wants to pay for it so it’s kind of a strange comment to make.”
Cressey proposed 52 condos above a 20,000-square-foot ground-floor commercial space and three levels of underground parking. Cressey still wants to get a grocery store operator to lease commercial space even though neighbours have noted three previous grocery stores on the site have failed.
Lammam wouldn’t say when he expects the bowling alley, The Ridge and other businesses to have to close. Condo sales are to proceed imminently.
While Lehan hopes a solution to preserve the bowling alley could still be found, Hayden is not hopeful about its survival.
Hayden said he was disappointed bowlers weren’t able to speak to Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr’s motion on notice at a regular city council meeting last week to instruct the city to work with the park board to provide a family-bowling centre on the West Side.
“That’s the most disappointing part, that other than Adriane Carr, no councillor has been here to talk to the bowlers and no councillor is going to listen to the bowlers,” Hayden said.
Council referred Carr’s motion to the park board. Hayden hopes Vancouver will eventually see a city-owned bowling alley similar to one near Victoria in Langford.