One of the last surviving bowling alleys in Vancouver has been spared for another two weeks.
After hearing from 60 speakers at a development permit board meeting Tuesday afternoon, the board deferred a decision on the fate of Varsity Ridge Bowl until a development permit board meeting Oct. 22. The bowling alley at Arbutus and West 15th Avenue could be demolished in favour of a proposed residential and retail redevelopment.
The board asked city staff for additional details on the height and density of other projects along the Arbutus corridor, according to a city spokesperson.
Bowlers marched from the more than 60-year-old bowling alley to city hall Tuesday. The march was meant to highlight their goal to save what they see as a gathering place that is affordable and accessible to all residents and hosts thousands of school children and multiple charity fundraisers each year.
“Even I can bowl,” read a sign carried by a man in a wheelchair.
“Whenever my friend Kevin comes over we go bowling. It’s really fun,” said 10-year-old Max Riches Koch. “Instead of videogames, that’s what we do.”
¬¬Roughly 100 seniors, neighbours and people with developmental disabilities who bowl at Varsity Ridge packed a meeting room at city hall.
City development planner Paul Cheng outlined how Cressey Development is trying to achieve “neighbourliness” with its plans for a five-storey building that would house a grocery story on the ground floor with 52 condos above and three levels of underground parking. Efforts are being made to set the building back and landscape it in a way that screens neighbourhood homes from condo dwellers.
Cressey applied to the city to redevelop the property that includes the bowling alley, the Ridge Theatre and a restaurant under zoning that allows four storeys to be built, with the possibility of a zoning relaxation for five storeys if city staff and the development permit board deem neighbourliness has been achieved.
Some of the residents were concerned about the size of the building, overlook, privacy, shadowing and noise, but most made appeals to save the bowling alley. “To increase neighbourliness by losing a cultural amenity doesn’t make sense,” said resident Kyle Koch.
He said the residents don’t want a grocery store and that three grocery stores in a row have failed at the location. “Thanks for thinking of it, but we’d rather have a bowling alley,” he said.
Bowler and Kitsilano activist Mel Lehan said Vancouver had 25 bowling alleys in 1963. Now there are four including the Ridge.
Residents and bowlers said they should have been consulted to help shape the development from the outset so creative solutions to save the bowling alley could have been found. They argued plans were presented to them as a mostly done deal at a summer meeting and were furious Cressey seemed so sure of approval that the company is constructing a sales centre.
The city wouldn’t make Vicki Potter, the director of development services and chair of the board, available for comment.
Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr has introduced a motion on notice for the Oct. 16 council meeting asking the city to include access to bowling facilities in Vancouver’s Healthy City Strategy 2012-2020 and to work with the park board to consider options to provide a family bowling centre on the West Side.
The public can attend the Oct. 22 meeting at 3 p.m. but they won’t be able to speak.