Unassuming Burnaby to step out of Vancouver’s shadow

Move over Vancouver, with your pricey homes, bridges and traffic congestion. Just like Brooklyn has sucked all the young creative and middle class out of Manhattan in the last couple of decades, Burnaby is about to do the same to Vancouver. A large supply of new buildings, proximity to transit, post-secondary institutions, recreation and shopping are going to make Burnaby the first residential choice, no longer the back-up plan.

Large, diverse and spread out, unassuming Burnaby has always been defined primarily by its proximity to the city, but soon it will also be defined as where everyone young and cool lives.

It’s always been a nice, respectable suburb where you grew up before moving into the city (though you might move back once you had a kid and wanted to settle down). In the 1980s the mall at Metrotown became an attraction, but although both Skytrain’s Millennium and Expo lines go through either end of the city, Burnaby was still a place you had to get through on your way to somewhere else.

Not so today. The available land, progressive growth strategy and plethora of transit hubs have turned Burnaby into a destination and a coveted place to live. With exorbitant prices in Vancouver and very little housing supply, Burnaby’s transformation has been drawing homebuyers from all over Metro Vancouver, and they’re primarily young, educated, and upwardly mobile. And they’re snapping up Burnaby condos and townhomes like they’re fresh cronuts on sale. Shape Properties’ Brentwood Town Centre redevelopment has had three residential towers sell out in less than a year. Station Square in Metrotown had similar spectacular success.

Now Concord Pacific, famous for creating much of the Yaletown we know and love on the vacant Expo lands, is getting in on the action with a new 26-acre master-planned community just on the other side of Lougheed from Brentwood Mall.

“Concord Brentwood will transform an underutilized industrial area into a beautiful and diverse mixed-use park-side community that completes the exciting revitalization of the Brentwood Town Centre neighbourhood,” says Matt Meehan, senior vice-president of planning with Concord Pacific Developments Inc.

Designed by award-winning architect James K.M. Cheng of Vancouver, Concord Brentwood will consist of 10 glass and concrete towers, most between 40 and 45 storeys tall. Tower 1 of Phase 1 will consist of 426 units on 45 storeys. It’s being marketed as “the new Yaletown,” which appeals to young professionals looking for a trendy and connected place to call home.

What is so attractive about Burnaby? For one thing, Burnaby’s leaders have created a very dynamic action plan for development that works around four town centres, Brentwood, Metrotown, Edmonds and Lougheed, 11 urban villages, and seven suburban multi-family areas that will support the over 2,000 units of new housing Burnaby will need each year for the next 25 years of population growth. Sustainability, transit, educational facilities and parks are integral to this strategy.

In his annual address reflecting on the year past, Mayor Derek Corrigan spoke about some of the development and plans for future greenspace. “In the rapidly developing Brentwood Town Centre, for example, the Gilmore Station Plan, developed in partnership with the community, will ensure citizens’ expectations are front and centre. The plan includes significant open areas among the many new residential and commercial buildings. In addition, conceptual design work is well under way for the much-anticipated Willingdon Greenway that will link Brentwood Town Centre to Confederation Park. This green space will provide an attractive, pedestrian oriented public park linking the Heights and Brentwood Town Centre, two iconic areas of our city.”

Burnaby also has many of the province’s leading academic institutions, including SFU and BCIT. But most of all, it has the potential to supply enough new homes to ensure that there are many new, affordable options. With the influx of new residents comes new businesses, restaurants and amenities.

Says Dan Wilson, executive vice president of Shape Living, “The Amazing Brentwood addresses the region’s affordability by providing a vibrant master-planned, mixed-use community with a variety of housing alternatives to the single family home. Its location, a 20-minute drive from downtown, also offers an affordable way to commute via SkyTrain, which is seamlessly connected onsite. By creating this world-class community full of shopping, dining and entertainment, residents can enjoy an urban lifestyle with homes at nearly half the cost of owning downtown. Shape also plans to deliver this high density mixed-used model at Lougheed next, a 42-acre transit-oriented master-plan.”

Mayor Corrigan is certainly happy with the direction his city is progressing. “The city is again well positioned to build on our plans and achievements, keeping Burnaby a city that models social, environmental and economic sustainability, and is nationally recognized as a great – and, I would argue, the best – place to live, work, learn and play.” When Vancouver is a ghost town of Airbnb rentals and absent millionaires, all the fun will be happening next door in Burnaby – the new Brooklyn of the Pacific Northwest.


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