Lougheed Town Centre set for major transformation

A redevelopment proposed for Lougheed Town Centre will transform the mall to a mixed-use community featuring residential, retail and services. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
A redevelopment proposed for Lougheed Town Centre will transform the mall to a mixed-use community featuring residential, retail and services.

Lougheed Town Centre near the SkyTrain station won't be recognizable in 20 years if early concept plans for the area become a reality.

Shape Properties Corporation has purchased four properties in the core area of the town centre, including the Lougheed mall site, and wants to redevelop the lands over time, says a Burnaby city planning report.

Shape hired James KM Cheng Architects Inc. to develop key concepts for its properties which are being incorporated into a plan for a wider area bounded by Lougheed Highway, North Road, Cameron Street and Bartlett Court, as well as lands at the eastern end of Cameron at North Road.

"It won't be a mall anymore if what they're proposing is accepted," said Coun. Colleen Jordan, chair of Burnaby's Community Development Committee, of the mall site. "Not in the sense of what we traditionally think as a whole bunch of stores joined together with a lid on the top."

Under the proposed concept plan, the commercial hub would be located at the southern end of the mall site, with anchor tenants at the current site of the Sears Outlet store on the south side of Austin Road, she said.

The land occupied by the 1962 mall and its parking lots, almost 15 hectares (37 acres), would become streets with commercial at ground level and towers on top, with all parking underground.

The concepts are the result of a review of the Lougheed Town Centre plan, last  updated in 1997, to take into consideration the addition of the Evergreen Line rapid transit project to Coquitlam expected to be completed in 2016, and the city's high-density, multiple-family residential zoning categories for town centre areas adopted in 2011.

The design of streets would prioritize pedestrians, cyclists and transit-users over motorists and offer "a diversity of housing types with a broad range of affordability," the report said.

Lougheed would become a hub for transit and redevelopment similar to what Brentwood mall is turning into and what Metrotown already is, Jordan said.

At the recent public hearing for the first phase of the Brentwood mall project, she said, someone spoke of a senior who is no longer as mobile and able to get to services several blocks away. "This way when you're right there, down the elevator, there you go, your commercial services are right on the street, so to speak."

Jordan stressed the details are still sketchy as it's only in the concept stage, but under the proposal "it would not look anything like it is today."

According to the report, the Lougheed core area would include seven distinct precincts including: a transit hub and plaza; a narrower, pedestrian-friendly Austin Road high street; a north-south grand promenade connecting Cameron to the heart of the neighbourhood and the transit hub; an east-west pedestrian connection between North Road and the existing residential highrises west of Bartlett Court; projects along Cameron featuring retail at grade and housing above; a north-south pedestrian-only walkway through an outdoor, covered shopping area with restaurants; a north-south pedestrian connection along Bartlett Court with the daylit creek and large outdoor gathering space.

Shape also owns and is developing the Brentwood mall site, and while there will be similarities in design, the proposed concept for Lougheed is "even less mall-like than Brentwood," said Jordan

The area's redevelopment will provide opportunities with the developers for potentially expanding or relocating Cameron Recreation Complex and the attached Cameron library branch, she said.

"We need more recreation and the library is very small and all that sort of stuff will definitely be needed in that quadrant of the city."

Another of Cheng's concepts is to daylight a tributary of Lost Creek, which flows into the Brunette River, and have it meander through the western end of the current mall site.

As for the area itself, the biggest challenges for developers will be that it's very sloped and two major thoroughfares, Lougheed and Austin, run right through it, she said.

Unlike the Brentwood mall site, there is no single-family neighbourhood right next door which would require the highrises to be located away from them, Jordan noted. That, and the topography of the site, would likely result in the towers being spread out through the property and up to the edges.

There's also nothing Burnaby can do now that the province turned down its request to build the Evergreen line to accommodate a future station at Cameron.

"Unfortunate, but that train has left."

Change has certainly been a long time coming to this quadrant of Burnaby. Apart from a mixed-use project at the southwest corner of Cameron and North Road, there's been "limited development in the last 15 years," the report said.

Shape purchased the Lougheed mall site after it bought the Brentwood mall property in 2010.

"None of this happens without the money and the developer that's willing to take on a project that's going to take 20 years to complete," said Jordan.

The report on the preliminary concepts for Lougheed will be presented to Burnaby  council in the new year. Jordan expects public consultations to start in the spring.

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