Renovation eyed for Pleasantside Grocery Store in Port Moody
A Port Moody architect who trained in Italy hopes the restoration of the Pleasantside Grocery Store will be part of a renaissance of the Port Moody confectionary that was a popular stop for ice cream and treats for hordes of summer beach-goers in years gone by.
Julia Tihanenok of Non-Stop Design has submitted paper work to begin the application process that would see the 85-year-old building restored and re-opened as a grocery store, with the addition of a commercial/residential building to the west and, eventually, a single family home at the back of the one-acre property.
Tihanenok, who is originally from Latvia and is taking on the project with the financial support of her family, acknowledges that the project is ambitious. But she said she plans to take it slow and consult with residents and heritage advocates, as well as provide the appropriate environmental, geotechnical and other reports as the city requires.
In an interview with The News, Tihanenok said she is well aware of the importance of the Pleasantside Grocery store to the community and will address neighbourhood as well as environmental and development concerns.
"The most special thing is that everybody has childhood memories about it," she said of the grocery store, now an empty shell, but which used to house a grocery store, and the Pleasantside post office.
The store was part of the Port Moody Station Museum's recent tour of heritage homes and Tihanenok said people she met that day smiled when they talked about how it played a role in their summer vacation, as a place to get treats on the way to Buntzen Lake. "It was a special place in the city," she acknowledged, and now, she says, she wants to bring it back to life.
THE FAMILY BUSINESS
Although her family's business in Latvia was restoring buildings that were much older — about 400 to 500 years older — and has successfully completed renovations on two Port Moody buildings, (an eight-unit commercial building housing Charlie's Mexican Restaurant on St. Johns and a single-family home on Henry Street), fixing up the Pleasantside Grocery store has its own special challenges.
For example, the city requires that it be moved because it's too close to Ioco Road, and the porch sits on city property. The parts of the old building, much of it constructed of recycled lumber when it was built in the 1920s, would probably have to be dismantled.
Tihanenok fears it could could fall apart during the move otherwise. Putting it back together will take some time — and money, but she said "it's not a deal breaker" and structural consultants now say at least the top floor could be saved intact.
But there are other hurdles as well.
With the road so narrow and parking almost nonexistent, an underground parking garage would have to be built, which Tihanenok said, would be also be used by the residents and patrons of the future commercial/residential building she plans to build.
The property is currently zoned local commercial and designated as commercial mixed use in the city's Official Community Plan (OCP), according to the city, so a public process will be required, especially if the development requires any changes to the designation, and heritage conservation issues will have to be considered, as well as environmental concerns.
With Wilkes Creek running along the property, Tihanenok has to be mindful of the effects of property development on the watershed. Her plans are to keep the project as green as possible, using solar and geothermal heat, and recovering rain water and using it for non-drinking purposes.
If she gets approval to dig the parking garage into the hill, she would cover the slope with grass and fruit trees, recalling the area's history as a former orchard, and also providing cover for the commercial/residential area as well.
"We're trying to have the parking as invisible as possible and trying to plant an orchard on top," Tihanenok explained.
The pre-application plans have only recently been submitted, and Tihanenok has a long way to go before they come to fruition. But so far the Pleasantside Community Association is cautiously optimistic about her vision.
In a statement last week the association wrote: "We understand there is a preliminary plan for the Pleasantside Grocery Store that is far more sensitive to the surrounding area than the previous plan a few years ago. We hope that the new owners are able to save the Pleasantside Store as it is a landmark in the area. As with any new development in Pleasantside, concerns about traffic, environment and density are paramount. Although some of our members have been impressed by the verbal statement of good intentions we would be more comfortable if we could see a more formalized plan for the development."
COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL
Tihanenok, who received some of her training in Italy, but graduated from UBC and has considerable local experience in home renovations and restorations, admits she has a long way to go to win approval for this project and bring it to completion. By taking it slow, first rebuilding the store, and then living on the top floor with her family, she hopes to get all her ducks in a row before completing the second and third phases of the project.
For some, a mixed use development on land that has been undeveloped for years will come as a shock. She is considering 10 units of residential, that would include eight work/live lofts and two two-story corner units, plus 5,800 square feet of commercial, possibly including a restaurant and a bakery, that would sell products at the Pleasantside store.
To keep that vision going will take some perseverance and enthusiasm, but Tihanenok says she's in it for the long haul.
"If I'm in love with a project, I can't let it go," she said.
HISTORICAL PHOTOS SOUGHT
Since 1928, the Pleasantside Grocery Store has been a fixture on Port Moody's north shore. According to local history, it was built in 1927-1928 on three acres of land for Leo Peltier, using reclaimed wood from a North Vancouver ferry and the Empress of Japan. One of the longest-serving proprietors were John and Mary Ronco, who ran the convenience store and post-office for many years. Later Charlie Jack operated the store, which was a popular spot to get treats on the way to Buntzen Lake and for the residents of Pleasantside.
It's listed on the registry of Canada's Historic Places.
Julia Tihanenok is searching for historical photographs of the store that might provide information about the original look of the building. Email her at email@example.com.