Victoria-Fraserview: Development proposed for Avalon Dairy property

Increased density would protect 104-year-old home

The old Avalon Dairy property on Victoria-Fraserview could be subdivided into 10 lots under current zoning. That could mean 10 homes with secondary suites and laneway houses.

But developer Avalonna Homes and at least two area residents would prefer to see denser development that would protect the property's mature trees, the Avalon Greenway and the old Crowley home.

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Harald Underdahl, who has lived across from Avalon since 1940, doesn't want to see big boxes or characterless cookie-cutter homes ruin the "flavour" of the neighbourhood. But he doesn't mind extra density if there's underground parking because he wants to see the Craftsman-style farmhouse, which was built in 1908 by Avalon founder Jeremiah Crowley, preserved.

The Avalon Dairy, at 5805 Wales St., was one of the longest-running and last working farms in Vancouver. The city has recognized the Avalon farmhouse for its significant heritage value, which means the city is required to try to find a way to preserve it. But recognition doesn't guarantee protection from demolition or alteration.

Heritage consultant Donald Luxton contends the Crowley home should remain in its original spot. But Underdahl, whose heritage home was moved from the middle of a nearby block to a corner to make way for five duplexes, would prefer to see the home shifted right onto Wales Street. "I don't want to see it get lost in the middle of something," Underdahl said.

A community garden could be built around the home to emphasize its prominence.

Community members helped establish the Avalon Greenway along the property. Andrew Pottinger, principal of Pottinger and Associates, which specializes in communications for property developments, said this would be lost if the 1.26-acre property was subdivided into 10 lots because the new homes would need a road that connects East 43rd Avenue and Wales Street.

Avalon CEO Gay Hahn told the Courier last year that the greenway had been incorporated and would always exist.

Avalonna Homes, a group of Killarney residents with experience in small-scale residential construction, purchased the property in 2011. Hywel Jones Architects and the developer will likely next explore negotiating a heritage revitalization agreement with the city that will allow them to build denser housing on the site. Barring complications, Pottinger believes the approval process could be completed by fall.

He said four-plexes, with two units up, two down, or six-plexes with two units up, four down, are possibilities. Any redevelopment likely wouldn't exceed three storeys and would include one level of underground parking.

Joseph Jones, who lives a 15-minute walk away, summarized the open house on his blog, Eye on Norquay, noting: "The event could provide a model for how developers and city planners should approach local communities." He also wants to see more residential density in exchange for heritage preservation. But he'll keep his eye on the amount of density and the affordability of the residences proposed.

Pottinger said 89 people registered for the April 2 open house and 101 submitted comments. He couldn't summarize the feedback as of April 9.

crossi@vancourier.com Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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