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Business and Reconciliation (92)

Massive Vancouver land development unveiled for Jericho area

June 16, 2023
A development by three Vancouver-area first nations will dramatically alter the landscape of a seaside park on the city’s west side.

The Globe and Mail: Vancouver’s Indigenous nations had already pitched an ambitious plan for a massive new development on the city’s west side two years ago that would double the current population there.

Now, a revised plan being released Friday by the consortium of Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations has increased the amount of housing dramatically, with a proposal for 13,000 homes on the 36 hectares of former federal military land instead of the previous 9,000.

The new MST Development Corporation plan could add as many as 26,000 new residents to that West Point Grey neighbourhood, which is currently home to only about 13,000 people overall who live primarily in large-lot single-detached houses. The site is across the road from Vancouver’s popular Jericho Park and Jericho Beach.

The proposed increase in housing would make it among the densest of large master-planned new developments in Vancouver, if approved.

The River District, a redevelopment of industrial land in southeast Vancouver, by contrast, is anticipating about 7,000 homes and 18,000 new residents on the site – 52 hectares on the Fraser River – when it is fully built out.

The new proposal, rather than scaling down to a European concept of blocks of six- to eight-storey buildings, as one Point Grey resident group has advocated, pushes the tallest towers on site even higher, with three at 49 stories and one at 45.

The previous plan had towers up to 36 stories and many more buildings in the Vancouver style of podiums with towers on top – a design that uses up a lot of space at the ground level. As a result of the changes, there is a larger park space in the middle of the development.

The new plan provides more variety in heights among the lower-rise buildings and more of the buildings are rectangles that rise straight from the ground, like those in the Olympic Village or in many European cities.

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The plan still envisions including 20 per cent of the housing – now at 2,600 homes because of the larger overall number – as social housing, but specifies that another 10 per cent of the units would be moderate-income rental. The previous plan said there would be market rental, with “some” pegged to moderate-income households.

Besides the radically changed housing numbers, the new proposal, which is the fourth phase of a lengthy process with the city, also put more emphasis on water features throughout the site and on preserving views of the mountains and the Salish Sea to the north from a ridge at the western end of the site.

The document says that the MST leaders asked the project team, after the round of consultations in the fall of 2021, to make changes, including adding more housing, more open spaces, additional employment and training opportunities, and “a deeper recognition of the cultural importance of the site.”

The details on employment space and cultural aspects are not defined in detail in the new proposal. The latest version will be put out by the city for public feedback and then will come to council for approval in the fall.

The MST developers have said that it will likely take 20 to 30 years to build out the site. That build-out would likely not start for at least five years, even if the current plan is approved, as it takes that long to work through refinements of details and the city’s permitting process.

The nations will not sell anything outright, to keep control of the land. The 70 per cent of the housing that is not social housing or moderate rental will be a mix of ownership through a lease and market rentals.

TransLink and the city of Vancouver have indicated they favour having a transit stop in the middle of the new village, which is where the tallest towers would be. There are also plans for a school on the site.

The Jericho Lands development is one of several being undertaken by Indigenous nations in the region.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Frances Bula: Follow Frances Bula on Twitter: @fabulavancouver