The opening of PriceSmart Foods @ Kingsway & Knight is a big deal for KCC
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to a kick-ass deli & bakery. This is just one of the details of the new PriceSmart Foods, which is having its Grand Opening tomorrow. You're thinking, big deal, right? If you've followed the saga of the beleaguered corner of Kingsway and Knight Street, you'll understand how important this grocery store is to the community.
Kingsway & Knight Street (K&K) in Vancouver for almost two decades has been an abomination. Once the location of a Safeway supermarket with a giant parking lot, slow decay and changing economic fortunes in this corridor of the city resulted in the closure of the only grocery store in the area, and the implementation of a nasty covenant that prevented any grocery store revisiting the location for decades. For a long time it was the location of a swap meet, where for the right price you could pick up all the stolen goods you wanted.
It was thanks to Vancouver's Community Visions project, established by then Mayor Gordon Campbell and led by Planning Co-Director Dr. Ann McAfee that some citizens in the borough of Kensington-Cedar Cottage set the course for change. KCC and the Dunbar neighbourhood developed the first "visions" after a comprehensive community-consultation process in 1998. What was loud and clear from people who lived near the transportation hub of Knight and Kingsway: we want a grocery store!
Much credit goes to Anne Roberts, the former COPE city councillor (2002-2005) and several members of the community that pressed for big changes at this busy intersection. Good friends of mine participated in this process, which led to some of the most innovative re-thinking of any single-family residential neighbourhood in the city.
The boundaries of Kingsway & Knight street's innovative density project
What makes this part of the city unique is the ease with which change appeared to happen – it garnered very little controversy when compared to, say, EcoDensity. For several blocks around the hub of Kingsway & Knight, the neighbourhood cautiously welcomed infill housing development, increased density, and improvements to the public realm along the major thoroughfares of Kingsway & Knight Street.
Two new zoning types were applied in this area of town only as a trial – RT10 and RM1. RT10 is perhaps the most radical, allowing for multiple units on single-family lots. If you connect two lots, you have the ability to increase the density further. RM1 is increased density on the major streets – townhouse and multi-unit developments.
Both styles of development are slowly changing the make-up of this community. In my opinion, the first signs are hopeful. There is more housing choice becoming available, which is a good thing.
Having important amenities like a new public library, and a full-sized grocery store will be a big benefit to a neighbourhood who has had to make do with much less for a long time. What is still to be seen is whether the tower now situated at K&K will become more compatible with its surroundings. Right now it still feels like a fortress in the middle of set of moribund shops.
Gradually, I think we'll see that KCC's experiment in increasing density in single-family communities was a wise move. It will take a city council with real vision to adopt this beyond K&K, which is why I don't expect RT10 & RM1 is a zoning that will be replicated elsewhere anytime soon.