The local economy of West Vancouver has evolved over many years to serve the day-to-day needs of its residents. Our economy is largely retail and service based. It is manifested in a number of commercial centres including Dundarave, Horseshoe Bay, Ambleside, Caulfeild Village Shopping Centre, Park Royal Shopping Centre and a handful of smaller commercial nodes.
West Vancouver needs to grow and diversify its local economy to support both existing and future businesses, provide local employment opportunities and broaden its municipal tax base. The means to achieving these goals is to shift thinking about West Vancouver’s economy from purely serving the needs of local residents to what it takes to build a more vibrant, thriving and sustainable local economy over the long-term.
Economic Development Plan
West Vancouver’s Economic Development Plan provides a roadmap for diversifying and expanding the local economy to support West Vancouver’s transition from a mature bedroom municipality to a resilient community. It also serves as a touchstone for Council and staff to ensure that District plans and policies support local economic activity and that opportunities to grow and diversify the local economy are fully realized.
Demographics Affecting the Local Economy
From a land use perspective, West Vancouver is primarily a residential community within a forested setting.
- 59% of the total land area of the municipality is protected from development, i.e., reserved for limited use and recreational purposes, provincial park or regional watershed
- 8% (in the Upper Lands) is undeveloped
- 33% developed land area
Of the 33% developed land area:
- 83% is residential
- 16% is recreational
- 1% is zoned commercial
West Vancouver’s established land use and development pattern is predominantly built upon sprawled, automobile-dependent neighbourhoods, which contributes to some of the community’s resilience challenges. Others include:
- an ageing population
- limited housing options for both older and younger households
- high cost of housing that limits potential newcomers and further increases land values and reduces the ability of local young adults and families to establish themselves in the community
- transportation issues, including geographic and topographic challenges, limited road access to the North Shore, regional traffic congestion, a major traffic pinch point at the Lions Gate Bridge, limited transit service and limited parking in commercial areas
- viability of local businesses given the local demographic profile and spending patterns, high commercial rents and difficulty in attracting and retaining staff
Opportunities for Economic Growth and Diversification
In 2016, District staff began examining how West Vancouver could capitalize on regional economic strength to grow and diversify its local economy. This work has focused on opportunities in technology, the film industry and other creative sectors, health care, tourism and green industries. The key finding is that, even as a bedroom community, West Vancouver can attract new businesses and employment growth from within these sectors. However, there are some pre-conditions that are required for success, with the key ones being:
- an available supply of land for development
- municipal policies that support and incentivize economic growth
- more affordable housing to support a local workforce
The Economic Development Plan emphasizes the importance of land use planning in realizing economic opportunities in West Vancouver, particularly if the municipality wishes to leverage regional economic expansion to diversity its local economy. West Vancouver is well-positioned to grow its economy by tapping into the tremendous human and financial capital within this community and the entrepreneurial spirit of its citizens.