Paul Liberatore

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Burnaby courts big towers near transit as an economic driver

 

Aggressive urban planning around SkyTrain stations in Burnaby is turning the municipality into Metro Vancouver’s hotbed for condo development, according to an Urban Development Institute report.

Heavy pre-sales in projects such as Station Square at Metrotown and the redevelopment of Brentwood Town Centre added up to almost 30 per cent of all new-construction sales across Metro Vancouver, outpacing Vancouver’s downtown and west side neighbourhoods.

Throw in the city’s east side and Vancouver still sold more condominiums, but Burnaby’s high-density push is bringing development levels between the two cities closer together.

To the end of the third quarter, Burnaby saw 1,613 presales of condos under development compared with 1,394 for downtown and west-side Vancouver combined, UDI reported.

In total, developers have projects that add up to 14,548 units in the planning stage in Burnaby, within striking distance of the 14,766 in the City of Vancouver’s planning process.

From Burnaby’s point of view, that push is a deliberate strategy. Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan referred to the city’s transit-oriented town centres as “our city’s economic drivers” in a speech related to activity on the five-tower Station Square development at Metrotown Town Centre.

And he wasn’t just referring to construction jobs, but also the new commercial development that has come along with the development and the population growth that it supports.

Burnaby has done a lot to encourage development with recently revamped town centre plans and re-zoning exercises, such as the major redevelopment of Brentwood Town Centre, according to Michael Ferreira, an analyst with Urban Analytics, the firm that compiled the UDI report.

The city has also allowed bigger towers, in the 40-50-storey range with large numbers of units in each one, which has contributed to the surge of new units in presales.

However, Ferreira added, “if you don’t have people who want to live there, it doesn’t matter what the city does. And I think Burnaby’s got a lot going for it in that sense.”

Between the long-established amenities at Metrotown, Brentwood and Edmonds town centres, it’s easily accessible by the freeway as well as SkyTrain and the next-most-convenient location to Vancouver’s central attractions.

Prices for new condos are also $100 per square foot cheaper than in Vancouver, Ferreira said.

Developer Greg Zayadi described Burnaby as having “probably the deepest pool of buyers” of any community in the Lower Mainland.

Some 660 of Burnaby’s presales so far this year have been in two buildings at the Station Square development that Zayadi’s firm — Anthem Properties Group Ltd — is developing with Beedie Development Group.

Zayadi, Anthem’s vice-president of sales and marketing, added that the biggest contingent of their buyers are people who already have Burnaby addresses — 40 per cent. Of the investor buyers purchasing, he said most appear to be buying units that other members of their family will probably live in.

He said fewer than 10 per cent, about 40 buyers, put offshore addresses on their purchase contracts.

Zayadi added that Burnaby does make the development process easy for them in terms of a clear path through zoning, the design phase, establishment of community amenities.

“All of that is a nice, straightforward process,” Zayadi said. “From a working relationship point of view, it’s probably one of the best municipalities.”

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