Real estate owner and developer Grosvenor proposes a massive mixed-use, pedestrian-only development which it calls a one-of-a-kind project on 7.9 acres of land in Burnaby, B.C.
The project, near the Brentwood Town Centre, will comprise six residential towers with 3,500 homes, including 2,400 rentals, a new community centre, some commercial space and “an unprecedented” amount of public space.
It will also feature the tallest all-rental tower in Western Canada at over 60 storeys.
The development would deliver approximately 2,000 market rental and 450 below-market rental homes to meet the goals of the City of Burnaby’s non-market housing policy, with rents set at 20 per cent below Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s median rental rates for the area.
Marc Josephson, senior vice-president, development, said the project represents one of the largest rental housing components in Metro Vancouver and is Grosvenor’s largest mixed-use development in North America.
“We take an approach where we really strive to have a lasting impact. We’ve come forward with a pretty clear vision and we hope that it works well for the city,” he told RENX.
“We saw this as a big site where we can develop a significant project of significant scale and for us as a long-term-thinking company we ultimately are interested in building, in addition to condominiums, rental housing and commercial space that we will retain for the long term.
“This is a great opportunity to do that on a site that has all the location attributes that we are excited about.”
Brentwood development model for the future
He said the innovative approach will be a model for future large-scale, pedestrian-focused, transit-oriented developments. Vehicles would access the site through the underground from the site’s periphery.
“We decided early on that this is certainly a well-travelled neighbourhood. It’s active. There’s a lot going on. There is the Lougheed Highway to the north and there’s a SkyTrain to the north as well. We wanted to create what we called an oasis inside the site,” said Josephson.
“A lot of these projects, they only focus outward. We wanted to focus both outward and inward.
“On the perimeter of the site, it has one character which is a very vibrant, dynamic, sort of busy, lively character and on the inside, we wanted it to be all about people – a place where people can actually get some respite from the busy activity that surrounds this site.
“(To) actually have a sense of calm and a sense of community and place where people can actually just comfortably hang out and spend time, and having cars travelling through the site is in direct conflict with that vision.”
Josephson said it has not yet been determined how much underground parking will be developed. However, Grosvenor intends to have lower parking ratios than in traditional developments.
“We are focusing quite a lot on the transit-oriented nature of this site,” he said. “We are trying to minimize the amount of parking that is required.
“We will have more than parking for the residents and retailers, but we have a model where we’re trying to reduce the demand on the personal vehicle as much as possible.”
The approvals process
The development is located within one of Metro Vancouver’s fastest-growing communities one block from the Brentwood Town Centre SkyTrain station.
The site was acquired over a number of years starting in 2016.
Just this week, the development received approval to move forward. Open houses will take place later this month, though Grosvenor has already sought out informal engagement during the past couple of years.
Josephson said a public hearing could take place in April, followed by the approvals process with the city and council. He hopes to start construction by the middle of 2023.
He said completion of the first phase could be by 2027 or 2028; three towers with about 1,750 units composed of 1,100 market rental, 200 non-market rental and 450 condos; 185,000 square feet of commercial and the 100,000-square-foot community centre.
The second phase is to be completed by the early to mid-2030s.
“We’ve been interested in rental, in transit-oriented development for years and while we haven’t done a rental development of this scale before, we saw this site as an opportunity to finally deliver this rental housing on a large scale,” said Josephson.
“It’s a very large site and it’s incredibly well-located. The Brentwood Town Centre is a really incredible town centre, incredible submarket within Burnaby, within Metro Vancouver. The connectivity to all parts of the region . . . it ticks that box.
“It’s amenity-rich both in terms of retail services, green space . . . it ticks that box. It’s in a submarket where everything is kind of being developed roughly around the same time. It has a refreshed, new energy to it.”
Metro Vancouver and Burnaby
Josephson said Vancouver continues to be one of the most desirable places in the world to reside. Within B.C. and the Metro Vancouver region, Burnaby has very low vacancy because it is well-connected and there is strong planning in place.
It also offers a more attractive price point both on the rental side and for condo homeownership to other similar amenity-rich neighbourhoods in Metro Vancouver and the downtown.
“The rental market is fuelled by the job market, the anticipated arrival of lots of new workers, largely in the tech industry and others, and immigration clearly fuels it as well and the fact that Vancouver is such an expensive place to purchase,” Josephson explained.
“The quality and expectation of rental housing is continually going up and up because more and more people are choosing to or don’t have the option to purchase.
“Rental needs to be an important part of the housing offering that this region provides.”
Ryan Bragg, principal of architecture firm Perkins & Will, said the development is unprecedented with more than half of the site dedicated to open space including landscaped plazas and courtyards, around which all buildings are focused.
“Typically in this type of development, instead of plazas and courtyards there would be streets and space to support vehicles, but here there will be no cars, just trails and green space. It’s a complete paradigm shift for the region,” he said.
Grosvenor is a three-centuries-old firm based in London with a 70-year history of activity in the U.S. and Canada.
It has a $3.3 billion development pipeline focused on projects in urban, transit-oriented and/or amenity-rich neighbourhoods. These include urban mixed-use residential projects in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Metro Vancouver.
Grosvenor’s investment program acquires value-add residential and commercial properties while actively managing and improving a nearly $6 billion portfolio of 59 properties in the U.S. and Canada.
The firm’s structured development finance business provides funds for residential development in growth markets across North America.