Squamish Nation development near downtown Vancouver doubles in size
VANCOUVER - In April, the plan was to build 3,000 units. Now the Squamish Nation wants to build 11 towers totalling 6,000 units of mostly rental housing on a plot of vacant land at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge that was returned to the band in 2003.
"In the last few years we really eyed it because of its proximity to downtown as an economic development project for the Squamish Nation," said Khelsilem, a band councillor and spokesperson. "The rest of the city has built all these massive towers on our land and we haven't had much benefit from it, and we think it’s a reasonable expectation to also get involved in that type of development."
The West Kitsilano Residents Association had concerns when the proposal was for 3,000 units. Now that the project has doubled in size, those concerns have also grown.
"That’s probably about 10 thousand people plopped down at the southern end of the Burrard Street Bridge," said co-chair Larry Benge. "It’s a very, very big project on a very small site at the end of one of the busiest access points to downtown."
The development would be marketed to people who don’t own cars. Squamish Nation planners are looking at only providing parking to about 10 per cent of the 6,000 units, which is far fewer than would be required if it was built on city land.
"We think that there's a huge market for rental that actually has very minimal parking," said Khelsilem. "A lot of those people will be young people, families who want to be close to downtown."
But Benge thinks that's unrealistic.
"If even if one quarter of the people have cars and the rest don’t, that’s still 2,500 cars," he said. He thinks they will look for parking in a neighborhood that is already congested and will be asking the Squamish Nation if its members will sit down with the West Kitsilano Residents Association to address the group’s concerns.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart is in favour of the development.
"It’s good for the Squamish Nation in terms of establishing roots back in a traditional community, provides housing and revenue sources, and it brings a lot of rental housing to the city," he said.
But even if Stewart didn’t like the ambitious plan, he acknowledges the city can’t stop it.
"This is on reserve land, which is a bit of an anomaly in cities, but it does exist," he said.
"Musqueam reserve for example. So city bylaws, the planning process, does not apply to that land."
Squamish Nation members will vote on the project in a December referendum. If they approve the plan, construction could start in early 2021, and the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge could be fully transformed with the addition of 6,000 housing units by 2025.