Chances are that if the SkyTrain's Evergreen Line expansion through Port Moody to Coquitlam never opened in 2016 Wesgroup Properties' Inlet District master plan would never have been proposed.
"I think the answer is likely no," Dean Johnson, vice-president, development with Wesgroup, told RENX recently, when pondering that alternate reality. "In the long term, there is a lot of economic and historical data around the benefits of transit-oriented development, not just in the Lower Mainland, but internationally."
In January, Wesgroup announced it had submitted a development permit application to the City of Port Moody for the first phase of Inlet District.
It's a development trend that has been gaining momentum across Lower Mainland cities with towering, master-planned communities being proposed and built in and around SkyTrain Stations.
It's happening in Metrotown, Brentwood and Lougheed in Burnaby; Burquitlam in Coquitlam; in Surrey City Centre; and at Oakridge and Marine Gateway in Vancouver, among other locations.
It's a development movement that will likely not stop as the Metro Vancouver region prepares for its population to grow to an estimated four million by 2041.
In November, the B.C. government introduced legislation aimed at producing more high-density homes near transit stations.
Port Moody to be reshaped by development
This development trend will also be transformative in Port Moody.
The community is in the process of shifting from a quiet shoreside community with hillside heritage homes, popular breweries, inlet views and a quaint main street into a bustling, higher-density city centre that will rise around the area's two SkyTrain stations: Moody Centre and Inlet Centre.
Feelings around that transformation have been mixed. Johnson admits the multi-year proposal process for Inlet District — previously named Coronation Park — has attracted controversy, debate and obstacles as it has moved toward becoming reality.
Inlet District is Port Moody’s largest-ever development project, the TriCity News reported.
The company plans to build six towers and three low-rise buildings on the 14.8-acre site that will eventually add 2,486 market condos and 101 market rentals to the community as well as two day-care centres, an office building, a supermarket, a drug store and other retail space.
With approvals, construction is expected to begin in spring 2025.
The development location currently holds 59 single-family homes dating back to the 1950s, which are in various stages of emptying to make way for construction. The properties and development site are in the northeast corner of Barnet Highway and Ioco Road.
Johnson said Inlet District will have three towers reaching 26 storeys in height and three 31-level towers.
It will also include three low-rise buildings of six storeys surrounding a new community park. The development will also include a four-storey office building as well as street-oriented retail space.
Johnson told RENX the master plan is to be built out over four phases.
First phase to include street-front retail
The first phase will include two of the 26-storey towers built atop a four-storey podium, which will provide new retail space along Ioco Road for the grocery store, pharmacy and other shops.
The office building and a day-care centre will also be built as part of this phase, the company says.
The full plan also includes:
- pedestrian overpass to Inlet Centre SkyTrain station;
- $44 million in infrastructure upgrades;
- $4.8 million in public art; and
- a park with children's play area, sports court, stage, pollinator meadow and public seating.
The master plan also calls for dedicated housing for seniors – with 10 per cent of the rental housing earmarked for persons aged 65 and over.
"We are anticipating the completion of the overpass as part of a later phase of the development, and ideally that office building will be connected directly to the Inlet Station,” Johnson said.
The region is currently facing elevated office vacancy and Johnson said his team had a "lot of heated debates with the municipality around how much office should be in this location.
"I think we feel like that size of office building is right-sized for the demand,” Johnson said, noting they’re in preliminary talks with prospective office tenants.
Wesgroup, which was founded in 1956, focuses on developing master-planned communities, commercial spaces and town centres.
Wesgroup calls itself a vertically integrated company that encompasses construction, land acquisition, finance, design, leasing, marketing, sales and property management.
Full build-out of River District continues
Elsewhere, the River District on the shores of the Fraser River in South Vancouver, and the Brewery District in New Westminster are among its more recent master-planned projects.
Johnson said his team is currently focused on the next phase at River District, which includes pre-selling a pair of condo projects in the neighbourhood.
Harlin is a 30-storey market condo tower, which will be the tallest in the neighbourhood, while Ardea is a waterfront “boutique” building now being marketed.
Wesgroup is pleased with how the retail mix at River District has come together and after initially launching 13 years ago, the community is starting to feel complete with more food and beverage retailers coming soon.
"We're looking forward to continuing the retail strip down there and expanding our retail offerings with restaurants and opportunities down at the waterfront,” Johnson said.
He said they're now working on the redevelopment of the waterfront, including a waterfront plaza, as well as the neighbourhood’s long-expected community centre, which was planned in collaboration with the city.
Construction of the community centre is expected to start "in a couple of years."