EDMONDS PULSE: Just watch Edmonds grow
Of Burnaby’s four town centres, Edmonds has a flavour all its own.
Unlike Metrotown, Lougheed and Brentwood town centres, Edmonds isn’t built around a shopping centre.
But its recent path towards revitalization can trace its roots in what’s happened to a tired old strip mall up the street from Edmonds Street and Kingsway.
Middlegate Mall may be best known as the place where Burnaby-born actor Michael J. Fox played street hockey on the rear parking lot growing up, as he lived across the street.
But in 2004, the old mall was torn down as the city and Bosa Properties struck a deal to transform the site.
Today, HighGate Village is home to four residential towers and is anchored by a village-style mall with 117,000 square feet of retail that includes a grocery store, drug store, several restaurants and cafés.
The Bosa family, which has deep Burnaby roots, didn’t like seeing the neighbourhood in decline and jumped eagerly into a project they thought could help turn things around.
Mayor Derek Corrigan has made Edmonds one of his priorities during his time in office.
He said it was a rough neighbourhood for a long time, and because he grew up in a rough part of East Vancouver, he “was well aware of how neighbourhoods can decay if you don’t do something early.”
Without intervention, he said, the area could have become another Downtown Eastside or Whalley. Then property values would decline and it would become a mecca for social housing and social services—but not a complete community.
“I could see that coming for this neighbourhood,” he said. “I refused to let it happen to a part of Burnaby. It was a personal mission.”
Part of shifting the tide required an investment in facilities in the area.
To that end, in recent years the city opened a community police station at HighGate shortly after the new mall opened, a new fire station on Edmonds Street, the new Tommy Douglas Library, and most recently, the new Edmonds Community Centre.
It sends a clear message to the development community, Corrigan said.
“The presence of city institutions helps make the area stronger,” he said.
“They’re also a symbol of stability. They’re a commitment from the city that shows developers that this area was viable.”
And certainly, the neighbourhood has embraced the new facilities. The library and community centre—which includes the Fred Randall Pool— are popular hubs, busy virtually all day long, all week.
And behind the community centre more improvements are in the works for Edmonds Park (formerly Richmond Park).
In the early years, the intersection of Kingsway and Edmonds was Burnaby’s civic heart. The first municipal hall was built at the corner of Kingsway and Edmonds in 1899.
And after a long decline following the Second World War, the area is experiencing a real resurgence.
Now that corner is poised to become, if not a new civic heart, a new heart for the neighbourhood.
Cressey Developments has purchased the Value Village property and has recent received approval from the city to redevelop the entire three-acre site, which includes the small wedge-shaped piece right at the intersection.
Cressey Developments has purchased the Value Village at the intersection of Kingsway and Edmonds, and has big plans in the works for the site.
Image: Cressey Developments
Cressey’s plans include three highrise apartment towers and a six-storey office tower. The office tower would be right at the intersection. And one of the residential towers, 37 storeys, is planned near that spot as a “feature tower” for the project. A 31-storey “Kingsway tower” would be at the southeast corner of the site, and a 28-storey “Edmonds tower” would be at the northern corner.
All four buildings would sit on top of a two-storey podium containing almost 150,000 square feet of pedestrian-oriented retail space along Edmonds and Kingsway. Proposed tenants include a grocery store, fashion store and smaller retail tenants.
And an even larger project is in the works down the street, at the old Safeway distribution centre site.
The 48-acre site is located between 15th and 18th streets and 11th and 14th avenues. Developer Ledingham McAllister purchased the property in 2011 and since that time, planning has been underway to redevelop the 48-acre parcel, for now dubbed “Southgate.”
James KM Cheng Architecture Inc. has been hired by the property owner to develop the key concepts which will guide the visioning process for the project.
An open house was held last April to begin developing a framework and concepts for the project, and future open houses are planned.
So far, city and project planners are considering using the site as a possible third “node” in the town centre that relates to the first two—one being the commercial and civic core at Kingsway and Edmonds Street, and the other one the office and residential developments around the Edmonds SkyTrain station.
Taken all together, it’s been an exciting—and busy—time for the Edmonds area.
And all signs are that this isn’t going to change anytime soon.