Station Square transformation proposed

Artist's rendering of what Station Square mall could look like in about 10 years, from the entrance on Kingsway, looking east.
— image credit: Contributed

If all goes as planned, Burnaby's Station Square mall will be completely transformed within 10 years.

That's according to Anthem Properties, which owns and plans to redevelop the Metrotown-area shopping centre with partner The Beedie Group.

Anthem and Beedie purchased the mall property in 2004 and had produced an initial redevelopment plan, but the concept has been completely revamped following feedback from Burnaby city hall, said Rob Blackwell, Anthem's senior vice-president of development.

City planning staff pointed out it's an important property in the area and that there's an opportunity to create something unique, he said.

So the two companies revisited the concept and brought in urban planners Civitas and design consultant Cal Srigley to help redefine the space where the mall now sits. The result is a proposal to completely remake the almost 12-acre site.

For example, through the design process, McKay Avenue has been defined as an "elegant city street" with "an urban townhouse feel to it" including canopies and street trees.

In contrast, right now, the McKay side of the property is an above-grade parkade structure. "It's a functional use and done a long time ago, but it doesn't give back a lot to the street, it's very dead in terms of there's no interaction with the city street at that point because it's basically a car storage area," Blackwell said.

The redevelopment project will be done in five phases, all of which require rezoning approval from city council. The first, which could start as early as next summer, would involve the extensive renovation of the shopping area south of Kingsborough Street.

All the exteriors will be refurbished and the breezeway between the Holiday Inn hotel —which Anthem does not own but will be integrated with the rest of the project—and Future Shop will be renovated and made brighter with the use of skylights.

The underground parking lots on that side of the site will allow the removal of the parkade and rooftop parking on top of Save-On-Foods, Blackwell said.

The rest of the site, everything north of Kingsborough, will be torn down and rebuilt one phase at a time with parking located underground. That section, about two-thirds of the property, will be divided into four quadrants, each of which will eventually be home to a residential tower, retail and office space, public art, sitting areas and landscaping.

The one exception is the section where Save-On-Foods is today, which will include two towers.

By the time it's all completed, in eight to 10 years, the project will comprise 1,500 to 1,800 residential units over the five towers, he said.

The first quadrant to be rebuilt will be the northeast corner, at Kingsway and the road running between the parkade and Save-On-Foods, which will be renamed Silver Avenue, its original name before Station Square was built.

Silver Avenue on the site will be turned into a pedestrian shopping street, with smaller shops on one side and restaurants on the other. In a nod to Yaletown, where restaurants are located above the road, having been built on former loading docks, the future Station Square restaurant spaces will be built with patios and terraces one-and-a-half feet above the sidewalk.

The street will also have a more Granville Island feel to it, with brick paving stones and no raised sidewalks. Cars and pedestrians will be separated by street trees and bollards to create a "European market feel."

One of the next steps in the planning process is determining what mix of commercial tenants they'd like to see there, Blackwell said adding that Save-On-Foods will remain.

Anthem and Beedie have benefited from the fact Station Square continues to operate as a successful shopping centre, allowing them to take their time with the planning process, even as the development industry slowed down as a result of the 2008 global economic downturn, he noted.

If anything, the downturn caused the companies to make sure the redevelopment project could be phased in and planned strategically so they could respond to changes in the market.

When it was built in the late 1980s, Station Square was the latest and greatest but it's since become outdated and worn down, creating an opportunity for a complete makeover, he said.

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