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City land up for sale

City-owned property around Pinetree Way in Coquitlam is going up for sale to get ready for the Evergreen Line. Last week, city council rezoned 1112 Westwood St. - a vacant 2.

City-owned property around Pinetree Way in Coquitlam is going up for sale to get ready for the Evergreen Line.

Last week, city council rezoned 1112 Westwood St. - a vacant 2.79-acre treed lot in between Lincoln and Anson avenues - for a future mixed-use high-density development.

Perry Staniscia, Coquitlam's manager of lands and properties, said the land is currently not on the block; however, the city is selling a nearby property, a 1.2-acre parcel at 1123 Westwood St., south of Lincoln Avenue, also earmarked for high density. As per city policy, no price is listed for potential buyers.

According to a report that went before city council at last week's public hearing for 1112 Westwood St., the new zoning aims to make the city land more marketable in a "transit-oriented hub."

Such hubs have been hot topics at Coquitlam city hall recently, with builders proposing larger - and more compact - living spaces in areas close to where SkyTrain is going: in particular, the Clarke, North and Pinetree corridors. The city defines "transit-oriented hubs" as areas where residents or workers can walk in 10 minutes to catch a bus or rapid-transit connection.

A discussion about densifying around these hubs came to a head last week when city council narrowly defeated a bid by a developer to build 81 townhouses on a short residential street, located behind Burquitlam mall (opposing councillors cited on-street parking as their main concern for the infill).

In the City Centre, where city staff have requested three SkyTrain stations - at the West Coast Express station, Lincoln Avenue and Town Centre Park - the city is waiting for confirmation from the provincial government before it proceeds with the second phase of the City Centre Area Plan, which will re-examine land-use designations and policies impacted by the Evergreen Line.

Under that plan, adopted in 2008, the city allowed for a new designation called C-4 City Centre Commercial that specifically targets mixed-use high-rises connected to SkyTrain, as opposed to the C-2 General Commercial zone that permits limited apartment use "but not at a density that is feasible for a site in close proximity to the future rapid transit line," wrote planner Raul Allueva, in his report to city council.

As for 1112 Westwood St., nearby businesses have raised concern about parking pressures once the development is built. Still, another welcomed a possible high-rise, saying the property "currently has been a nuisance for not only my business but my staff and myself due to the constant occupancy of the homeless/drug users. If this space were to be converted into something more beneficial for the city, all businesses around would definitely benefit," wrote Carol Thorpe, who has a dental practice on Lincoln Avenue.

Still, at least one city councillor is sensitive to what it puts on the city land. At last week's meeting, Coun. Lou Sekora said he didn't want a hotel in its place.

Construction of the Evergreen Line is anticipated to begin this year and be completed by 2015.

"We're pretty sure the Evergreen is going to go," said Wayne Beggs, Coquitlam manager of economic development. "We're working on pretty fine-level details at this point so when the shovels are in the ground for Evergreen, I think you're going to see a pretty significant uptick - providing the overall economics hold - in terms of development in the City Centre."