Looking Back Look Ahead: Big Brentwood plans forging ahead in 2014

A rendering of the planned Phase 1 of the massive redevelopment of Brentwood mall, as seen from Willingdon Avenue and Lougheed Highway. - Shape Properties/Contributed
A rendering of the planned Phase 1 of the massive redevelopment of Brentwood mall, as seen from Willingdon Avenue and Lougheed Highway.
— image credit: Shape Properties/Contributed

Look out Metrotown. It won't be long before Brentwood can vie for the title of the most vibrant and busy town centre in Burnaby.

While several towers have been built or are under construction along Gilmore Avenue, the corner of Willingdon Avenue and Lougheed Highway is where the greatest changes are taking place.

On the southwest corner, the former site of car dealerships, a tire store, restaurants and other light industry, Appia Development's SOLO District is emerging. In June, it broke ground on the project's second phase, Altus, which will include Burnaby's tallest tower. At more than 550 feet tall, it will be second in B.C. only to the Shangri-La in downtown Vancouver.

When all four phases of SOLO are complete, the 6.5-acre development will include more than 1,400 homes, as well as offices, and commercial space.

At the northeast corner of the intersection, will come perhaps the biggest change with the redevelopment of Brentwood mall over 30 years by its owner, Shape Properties.

After having its master plan for the 28-acre site approved in 2012, a rezoning application for phase 1 of the project—a new externally-oriented shopping centre, public plaza and high street on the southwest corner of the site by the SkyTrain station—went to public hearing in December with a council decision expected early the new year.

SkyTrain stations are helping to shape development in Burnaby, which had always envisioned its town centres to be built around regional transit corridors, including Lougheed Highway, said Burnaby Coun. Colleen Jordan.

Jordan, chair of the city's community development committee, noted predictions of high-density development along the SkyTrain routes has taken some time, decades in the case of Metrotown, to come to fruition.

She said with a laugh that someone once told her of seeing a photo of the traffic queuing up to get into the mall parking lot when the shopping centre first opened in 1961. "There were all these cars all the way up Willingdon trying to get into the mall, so [traffic] is not a new issue."

Towers were always envisioned in the core area of Brentwood with buffers of lower density as development gets closer to single-family homes, she said.

The 26-acre Dragonwood Industrial Park, south of Lougheed, appears also to be nearing redevelopment. Concord Pacific Holdings Ltd. has an agreement to purchase the property on condition it is successful in its rezoning application, for which it is proposing a multi-family development with highrises, townhouses and low-rise apartments as well as commercial space. A portion of the property has also long been designated in the city's Brentwood Town Centre plans for a school and park.

Despite the long-range planning, the future of the industrial area south of Dawson Street, between Willingdon and Beta avenues, was never set out in the city's original plans, something city staff plan to rectify, likely in the new year, she said.

As reported in the NewsLeader, the uncertainty has led to land owners seeing their assessments and taxes skyrocket in anticipation of development, but being unable to sell it for what it's worth because there's no area plan in place.

As for community amenities to serve the increase in population, city staff are making a wish list, which likely will include a community centre at Willingdon Park once the park space is expanded.

Funding shouldn't be a problem.

After all, in Burnaby developers contribute community amenities in exchange for being allowed to build additional density on certain sites.

The SOLO District alone, once completed, will contribute a city-owned community space within its project and $30 million in cash for amenities elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

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