Northwest Burnaby is becoming a destination

It’s hard not to notice all the development in the neighbourhood, but what is happening at these construction sites?

For those who grew up in Northwest Burnaby or have been there in the past, you may remember that this part of the city was not very popular before the redevelopment. It was more of a city where people drove through, not a place where people stopped. The mall was really the only thing there, with the major stores being Sears and Zellers.

Since the closing of these stores, construction sites have been showing up around the city, and we see how Northwest Burnaby has changed drastically over time. New high-rise towers, a new mall, and businesses coming and going. 

Over the past several years, many construction sites building condo and rental towers have appeared, greatly changing the look of the neighbourhood. So what is driving all this construction and what impact will it all have on Northwest Burnaby?  According to the BC Government, 100,797 people moved to the province last year. Of those people, 67,141 were immigrants to Canada and 33,656 came from other provinces and territories. To put this into context, the number of people who moved to BC last year is approximately 1.9% of BC’s 5.21 million population. Or, to put another way, 1 out of every 52 people in BC was a new arrival in 2021.  These new people need places to live and that is driving the changes we are seeing here and in other parts of Metro Vancouver.

The impact of people moving to BC can be seen in all the new construction occurring in Northwest Burnaby, principally centered around what was Brentwood Mall.  Shape Properties rebranded it as The Amazing Brentwood, with the site undergoing extensive redevelopment. Last year, phase 1 was completed, which includes three new high-rise towers that have been built along with a new dining space called Tables and an outdoor retail environment. Once this project is complete, the plan is for there to be 11 high-rise towers in total, creating thousands of condominium and rental units, along with new office spaces.

Although The Amazing Brentwood is the main hub for Northwest Burnaby, there are other major construction projects happening in the area.  The development at the Gilmore Skytrain station, called Gilmore Place, developed by the Onni Group, is estimated to be completed in 2025. When the project is complete, there will be three residential towers in total with the lower street levels designed for retail, restaurants, and amenities. The plan is for the Skytrain to be incorporated into the towers. Daily Hive mentions that one of its unique features is that one of the towers will be the tallest in Metro Vancouver, standing 708 feet tall – 49 feet taller than the Living Shangri-La tower in Downtown Vancouver, which is currently the tallest.

Another massive development, located along Lougheed Highway is Oasis at Concord Brentwood from Concord Pacific. Already under construction, Oasis brings a new design that differentiates itself from the other developments. The theme for Oasis is inspired by resorts and they claim that “residents can experience relaxed ease and an island getaway without having to leave home.” Many amenities are included in this project, such as a bowling alley, a multi-purpose gym, and an outdoor beach swimming pool. Elevators will be quite different in that they are mobile controlled. With this technology, it helps reduce the amount of surfaces that other people touch, preventing the spread of germs.

The city ensures that new developments put money into city coffers immediately. The City of Burnaby requires developers to pay what are known as “Development Cost Charges” (“DCC”) to ensure that those building new housing pay their fair share for infrastructure and services – roads, sewers, water mains, transit, community centers, etc. Some of the main charges developments paid are:

  • Sewers:  For each housing unit in these towers, between $1,072 and $3,530 is charged depending upon whether the building is in the Vancouver Sewerage Area or Fraser Sewerage Area.  The dividing line goes right through the Brentwood neighborhood so there are different costs.  
  • Schools:  $600 per unit is paid for a Burnaby School District 41 school site acquisition charge.
  • Transportation: $1,554 per unit is paid as a charge to help fund transportation.
  • Parks:  The City of Burnaby charges $3.55 per sq. ft. of development area to pay for parks.

There is currently a plan to build a new community center at Confederation Park, which will cost about $127 million, and the DCCs help the city pay for infrastructure like this for the community. This plan for the community center was proposed by the City of Burnaby and is aimed to be completed in 2025. Currently, Confederation Park has three main buildings: Eileen Dailly Leisure Pool and Fitness Center, the McGill Public Library and the Confederation Community Center for Seniors. A City of Burnaby staff report outlines that the new community center will be located between the pool and the library and will join the buildings together. The new facility will host more amenities in the neighbourhood, including a new gymnasium, expanded fitness and cardio facilities, meeting rooms, and a community kitchen.

Another major development across from the Amazing Brentwood on the Lougheed Highway, is another example of how charges by the City are used to create amenities for the community. The developer, Grosvenor, has proposed a pedestrian-only environment which has been recently approved by the City of Burnaby. The development will include six residential towers that will feature about 3,500 new homes with 2,450 of those being rental homes and 450 below-market rental homes. The unique part of this development is that Grosvenor is including a multi-storey $140 million community center in their master plan, which will be a closer option for those who live near Brentwood compared to Confederation Park. According to Daily Hive, this community center is funded by the Community Benefit Bonus Policy. These funds are through the revenues from developers which are collected by the municipal government. Even though Grosvenor will be building this community center, once completed, it will be completely operated by the City of Burnaby.

All this development could be great for a city that has not received much attention, but with upsides, there always comes downsides. Due to the increasing number of new homes, there will be more people moving to the city which could create more traffic and strain on city resources. Could this mean more crime?

One Burnaby resident reports that police have warned residents that the new development at Brentwood has high incidence of crime. “They’ve told us not to send kids there without adult supervision,” she said.

“There’s tons of security guards there now. If they see you hanging around, they warn you and threaten to kick you out,” said another person who works in the mall.

Cover Image: The Amazing Brentwood

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