Fourteen years after Ryan Beedie got the OK for a waterfront community in southern Coquitlam, the well-known Metro Vancouver developer is ready to realize his vision.
On Monday, Beedie and architect Robert Toth spoke to the city’s council-in-committee via Zoom about the lengthy delay for Fraser Mills and their desire to finally build.
The land-use application for the 91.5-acre parcel — on the site of the former Fraser Mills sawmill, once the biggest in the British Empire — calls for a Granville Island-type development facing the Fraser River that, when complete, would be home to around 10,000 residents.
In summary, the company, Beedie, plans to construct:
- 16 towers ranging in height between 29 and 40 storeys, with several low- and mid-rise buildings as well
- 5,500 residential units, of which 470 will be purpose-built rental: half as market rental and the other half as non-market rental
- 794,500 sq. ft. of employment space for at least 1,700 jobs
- 16.6 acres for parks and open spaces
- more than 100 childcare spots for future residents and employees
at 2/10/12/15 King Edward St. and 1200/1316 United Blvd.
As well, if the revised plans are approved by council, Beedie would also build a public pier and refurbish the Kiewet wharf used during construction of the Port Mann Bridge.
Beedie described the waterfront hub as a “once-in-a-generation development opportunity,” of which he said his company has made “a significant investment.”
But he acknowledged the long road to get the plans right.
On Monday night, following an eight-minute conversation, council unanimously gave first OCP and rezoning readings for Fraser Mills to move to the May 30 public hearing.
(Coun. Trish Mandewo did not attend either of the meetings).
Still, council put a caveat on Beedie’s bid to keep the timeline tight: The company will face penalties if it continues to put off development of the property, staff said.
Andrew Merrill, Coquitlam’s director of development services, told the Tri-City News council has voiced concern in the past about phased applications being postponed.
And to make sure development expectations are met in a timely manner, the city will enter into an agreement with Beedie once council greenlights the application.
“Recognizing that no residential development has taken place at Fraser Mills during the intervening 14 years from original approval of the plan to now, there is a desire to ensure the applicant’s commitment to the project,” Merrill wrote in an email to the News.
“Should the new neighbourhood plan and revised zoning ultimately be approved by council, a commitment-to-build agreement will be prepared between the city and the applicant.”
He added, “While the details of the agreement are still being worked out, the applicant has agreed to a general approach on a voluntary commitment to proceed with building permits for residential development in Phase 1 within a reasonable time frame of council’s approval.”
RUSHED PLANS IN 2008
Toth told the News that Beedie’s approvals in 2008 for a neighbourhood plan were “rushed,” and the company needed more time to prepare its master plan.
As for its commitment-to-build agreement with the city, “We have never offered such an arrangement to another municipality before, but we recognize the time it has taken to get here so [we] felt this move would be one more demonstration of our commitment,” he said.
Or, as Beedie promised to committee-in-council on Monday, “We are confident [the penalties] won’t happen. We are geared up and ready to go.”
Toth said Beedie has changed its priorities since 2008 including:
- the site size, which has gone up from 89 to 91.5 acres following the purchase of the former AirCare site at 1316 United Blvd.
- the residential floor area, which has increased by one million square feet (up 36 per cent), with at least 10 per cent of the homes having three bedrooms
- a shuttle bus service, for TransLink to run every 15 minutes between Fraser Mills and the Braid SkyTrain station (Mondays to Fridays from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays every 20 minutes from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.)
- childcare, of which 69 spaces will be in the first development phase
- a new 50,000 sq. ft. community centre for the public, of which Beedie is contributing $61 million
Toth said plans for a BCIT campus fell through; however, the current proposal includes an option for School District 43 to buy two parcels for an elementary school.
In addition, plans for a district energy system are also out although Beedie plans to build according to Energy Step Code 3 — a peg higher than the city’s mandate.
As for the “significant investment” that Beedie spoke about before council-in-committee, Toth said the company has
- remediated the soils for the most of the site
- rehabilitated the Como Creek watercourse on the eastern side
- put $5 million toward the new King Edward Overpass
As well, some buildings are now going — or have gone — up on site; a bid for its presentation centre, to be constructed out of mass timber, will come forward next month.
“We look forward to working with the City of Coquitlam over the next 20 years,” Beedie said.
The timing of the Fraser Mills bid comes as Metro Vancouver recently moved its transfer station off Beedie’s property and relocated it a block west.
Meanwhile, Toth said Beedie hired Vancouver historical expert Don Luxton to review the lands and make recommendations to preserve elements of the sawmill’s past.
Besides 15 pieces of heritage-inspired public art, worth more than $3.5 million, there will also be interpretative signage along the waterfront to educate the public about Fraser Mills. Building and landscaping designs will also reflect Coquitlam’s past links to the lumber industry.
Mayor Richard Stewart said he dug up his speaking notes from 2008 before Beedie made its delegation on Monday, commenting: “I’m so pleased to see it moving ahead now…. A lot of work has been done to make this a great project.”
Still, the mayor asked, “Are these improvements good for Coquitlam?”
“It’s way better than what was planned,” Beedie responded. “Every citizen of Coquitlam is going to be proud.”
Added Don Luymes, Coquitlam’s general manager of planning and development, before council, “It’s going to be a game-changer for our city.”
- Phase lA: two industrial buildings
- Phase IB: 2,000 residential units (including 235 market rental and 235 non-market rental units), retail space (including a grocery store), a childcare space for 69 children, riverfront park, refurbished wharf, a Historic Como Creek Greenway and two industrial buildings
- Phase 2: community centre and adjacent urban plaza and pier, retail space and a road connection to Brigantine Drive to the east
- Phase 3: 1,200 residential units, retail space, office space, riverside park and trail and an industrial building
- Phase 4: 1,000 residential units
- Phase 5: 1,300 residential units and (potentially) a school