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Plan to revitalize industrial land progressing

Mark James purchased two acres of industrial land at 1st and Main in Vancouver. He is renovating the buildings, and will add the city's only official micro-brewery with restaurant.

Ankenman Marchand Architects/Ankenman Marchand Architects

A plan to build a colourful microbrewery and restaurant on a parcel of industrial land suggests the city's efforts to revitalize industry in the False Creek Flats area and preserve job-creating industrial lands from encroachment by residential development may be working.

Vancouver brewpub owner Mark James is proposing a 1,850-square-metre brewery along with a 1920s-style, 50-seat diner on a property close to the busy intersection of 2nd and Main. The development plan, which goes before the city any day, will retain the light industry and office buildings that are currently occupied by leaseholders at the site on 1st Avenue, near Main.

The proposed complex, with red trim, corrugated metal siding and old-world architectural details, would be a major makeover for the current cluster of nondescript brown buildings.

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"I like the area because it's in close proximity to the downtown core," Mr. James said in an interview. "I didn't want to place this brewery in an industrial park on Annacis or Mitchell Island or in South Surrey, or wherever. I felt like it should be a Vancouver destination and icon."

The brewery proposal is indicative of a sudden boom in industrial-land proposals in the past few months, city planning director Brent Toderian said.

The False Creek Flats area has been targeted by the city as strictly for industrial use, with some general office space allowed around transit. The idea is to prohibit residential speculation from encroaching on the remaining 10 per cent of city land that is industrial. About 400 hectares of Vancouver's industrial land has been lost in the past 40 years, so the city has moved to protect what remains, including False Creek Flats. That strict industrial mandate, combined with a strong economy, has meant a sharp rise in the number of industrial land-use proposals, Mr. Toderian said. He was not able to comment specifically on the Red Truck development application because of the city's confidentiality rule at this early stage in the process.

"The combination of land-use clarity and addressing of speculation, combined with continued favourable market conditions has resulted in a veritable boom of proposals," he said. And those proposals are not the usual mixed-use developments, which would include more condos, he added.

"They are in keeping with our vision. … Ninety per cent of the City of Vancouver allows mixed use, including residential. But this 10 per cent of land that includes the Flats is strategically important because it encompasses 50 per cent of the city's jobs. To have mixed use and residential there would be a significant problem."

The nearby Olympic Village in Southeast False Creek is an example of former industrial land that was lost to mostly residential condo developments.

Mr. Toderian said it is imperative that residential does not creep into False Creek Flats. A brewery would fit that overall vision, he says. A proposed restaurant could be seen as an accessory to that, but elsewhere the emphasis would be on industrial projects.

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"Our stats show that the myth that jobs have been leaving the city is just that - a myth. Jobs have tended to stay and had an interest in expanding, but what they needed was a stable economic situation, and they've needed land."

The Red Truck Beer Company, which will manufacture bottled beer for retail, is Mr. James's latest venture. For the past six years, his small North Vancouver-based brewery has been distributing the beer only through restaurants and a delivery service. The proposed expansion would make his beer available in liquor stores.

Plans for the complex include a landscaped outdoor garden area and a comprehensive thematic design that will reference the brand logo - a 1946 Dodge Power Wagon. Architect Tim Ankenman said he's in discussions to obtain any unused salvaged timber from the Opsal Steel Building, which is being restored and incorporated into a nearby condominium project on East 2nd Avenue.

"We have been looking for five years to build a brewery," Mr. Ankenman said. "A lot of what beer is about is the marketing, so it was very important to have a Vancouver operation. Also, it's something the city wants, and it creates jobs and the industrial zones are there to protect. It was very unusual to be able to keep a brewery in the city."

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