Coquitlam city officials have known for decades Burquitlam was destined for rapid transit — the challenge is to change it from a car-centric neighbourhood into a transit-focused urban centre.
City planning and development general manager Jim McIntyre describes the area, situated on the border of Burnaby and Coquitlam, as the sort of “vintage suburban” leftover from the design thinking of the 1960s.
In other words: “Big properties. Lots of asphalt — not many roads,” McIntyre said.
But with the impending arrival of the Evergreen Line, a network expected to ferry 50,000 daily riders after opening in 2016, McIntyre has been planning for a denser kind of community development.
This direction intends to weave in a “finer grid of roadways,” incorporating what would become a Burquitlam Transit Village in the area immediately around the expected Evergreen Line station just east of Clarke Road.
Part of that work, according to Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, requires attracting development interest, which in turn brings money into city coffers for things such as roads, pipes and other infrastructure amenities.
A new fund called “community amenity contribution,” meanwhile, is expected to raise up to $30 million for a new community centre as part of the transit-oriented development.
It’s all part of a plan, Stewart said, that helps attract investors by allowing them to exceed normal density restrictions, but at an additional cost of about $3 per square foot.
“In order to make such a massive investment in rail and rapid transit work, you need to put density around the stations,” he said.
“For example, in Burnaby there are SkyTrain stations along the Millennium Line that don’t have any density around them 13 years later, 14 years later (after opening).”
Anne McMullin, CEO of the Urban Development Institute, noted some of the costs might get passed down to homebuyers, but pointed out the money goes back into the community.
“Their fees and charges have been clear and concise, and it’s obviously focused around the investments in transportation,” she said.
“That’s what people want, it’s transit development.”
By 2021, according to the city, the neighbourhood is expected to capture up to 15% of the city’s new growth — or 1,900 new multi-family residential housing units.