Metrotown highrises headed to Burnaby's 1st COVID-era public hearing

They include two mostly market condo towers and one mostly market rental tower

If the City of Burnaby didn’t have enough to fill a public hearing before, a few highrise projects should do the job.

Three projects in the Metrotown area have been sent to the June 23 public hearing, the first such hearing in nearly three months. Council cancelled public hearings indefinitely in March as the COVID-19 pandemic began to wreak havoc on the regular business of local, provincial and federal governments.

In the case of public hearings, the challenge was finding a way to have people participate without risking spreading the coronavirus. While Surrey tried a phone-in public hearing, Burnaby decided to await a provincial order clearing the way for digital participation over video-conferencing platforms like Zoom.

Mayor Mike Hurley told the NOW earlier this month that the city had plenty of items teed up for a public hearing.

Now, three highrise projects have been added to the docket.

6075 Wilson Ave.

This 44-storey residential development, in the Central Park East area of Metrotown, first came to council in April 2018, and by November, staff recommended the matter be put to a public hearing. But a new city council, helmed by a fresh mayor, stopped the development in its tracks.

The developers had planned a one-for-one replacement of the rental units currently sitting on that property. But that year’s election brought in a new council with a mandate to develop a new tenant assistance policy, which was finalized earlier this year.

With that policy and a new rental use zoning policy now in place, the development is once again moving forward, in compliance with the new policies.

Along with the highrise, at the corner of Central Park Boulevard and Wilson Avenue, Anthem Properties Group is seeking to build a three-storey townhouse along Wilson Avenue. The project would also include a six-storey non-market rental building, according to a city staff report.

If approved, the non-market portion of the development will be operated through BC Housing and New Vista Society.

In total, the project is expected to have four market townhouse units; 354 market apartments, ranging from studios to three-bedroom units; and 86 non-market rentals.

5977 Wilson Ave.

This 42-storey residential development also first came to council in April 2018, but by the time it was ready for a public hearing in 2019 council already had eyes on developing the new rental policies.

Blue Sky Properties is proposing 356 units for the newly designed project – up from 293 in the original proposal. The new proposal includes six townhouses at the base, while the remaining units range from studios to three-bedroom units.

Unlike the other Wilson Avenue project, this one didn’t originally include non-market rentals. In fact, the current proposal also doesn’t include non-market rentals on this site.

Instead, since the developers also own three lots in the 5900-block of Kathleen Avenue, about a block away, they’re proposing to build 66 units of non-market rentals at that location.

Per city policies, the current tenants at the Wilson Avenue location would have first dibs on the new rentals at the same rents they’re currently paying plus provincially permitted annual increases.

5900-block of Kathleen Avenue

This project is connected to the one at 5977 Wilson Ave., as the site will be housing all 66 non-market rentals the city is requiring from the Wilson Avenue development, per the city’s tenant assistance policy.

The entire building – 34 storeys of purpose-built rentals – is expected to house 324 market rentals and a total of 94 affordable rentals, including the 66 previously mentioned. All tenants at the Wilson site will get first dibs on those affordable rentals, per the tenant assistance policy.

Staff noted in a report to council that the affordable units also include more family-sized units than is required by the city.

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