Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Debate over density and height

The debates over easing height limits for new high-rise towers in both Chinatown and at Broadway / Kingsway intersection in Vancouver have begun to heat up. The issue of greater density and greater heights has brought out both proponents and opponents with both sides making valid arguments about whether or not increased density and taller buildings should be permitted.

Proponents of density are arguing that the increased numbers of people concentrated in smaller areas create a better environment for businesses there as locals would make up a larger portion of their customer base.  Allowing local businesses a greater opportunity to succeed with areas of increased density would also allow neighbourhoods to maintain and increase their vibrance as daily activities from shopping to entertainment can be had locally.  Opponents are arguing that truly local businesses (mom-and-pop shops) will be forced out of neighbourhoods due to the replacement of older buildings with more expensive new ones.  The newer residential and commercial space will only be affordable for wealthy residents and larger chain stores.  The issue of affordability is more immediate when it involves development in existing neighbourhoods such as historic Chinatown and neighbouring Strathcona where communities of residents and businesses have existed for generations.

As the density debate continues in Vancouver, the issue will surely bring out opposing sides in Burnaby as its citizens begin to think about what kinds of neighbourhoods they want have in the future.  The case should certainly be true for residents of the Brentwood area as it begins to develop its own unique character over the next decade and beyond.  When it comes to the core area along Lougheed Hwy and Dawson Ave, the difference with the Brentwood neighbourhood is that residents are not being displaced so much as certain types of businesses are to make way for the transformation of the area from primarily industrial to a mixed-use area that integrates residential with commercial space.   That doesn't mean that there are no concerns for residents in the area.  The areas to the north of Lougheed Hwy between Gilmore and Holdom Avenues primarily have single family neighbourhoods that are beginning to be affected by densification in the area.  A prime example is the proposed development by Ledingham McAllister at Gilmore Ave and Douglas Rd which proposes an expansion of Willingdon Heights Park and it community centre,  and the construction of a high-rise tower with townhouses.  Issues such as traffic pattern changes, rat racing through residential streets and of the prospect of a high-rise tower looming over people's homes have been raised and discussed at a public hearing for the project.

Rather than being an issue of trying to protect the historical feel of the neighbourhood, as is one of the issues with Chinatown, it will be an issue of what kind of historical feel can be created as Brentwood develops into the town centre envisioned by the City of Burnaby's development plan.  What kind of town centre do the people that live in and around Brentwood in North Burnaby want to see?  What kinds of amenities are needed as the population of the area increases?  Will the community centres at Confederation and Willingdon Heights parks be sufficient to meet the recreational needs of this growing area?  What about the environmental impact of development on the Still Creek system to the immediate south of the area?  These and other issues will be considered and discussed over the next decade as Brentwood's character and identity are formed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A brief history of Brentwood Town Centre Mall

Located on the northeast corner of Willingdon Avenue and Lougheed Hwy in North Burnaby, Brentwood Mall opened in 1961 with Eaton's, Loblaw's Supermarket, and Zellers as the main anchor stores with 60 smaller stores making up the rest.  It is the oldest shopping mall in Burnaby.

In June 1968, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made an appearance at Brentwood Mall where a crowd of 2500 was entertained by the Fort Langley Firemen's Band, a rock group named Tomorrow's Eyes, and folk singer Vera Johnson.

In the early 1970s the mall was renovated and expanded from the original open air strip mall to an enclosed-style mall.

The Zellers store closed down in the early 1980s and was replaced by smaller stores.

In 1988/89, the mall underwent a major renovation and expansion.  The expansion saw the building of a full 2nd level of stores along with a food court.  By this time the Loblaws Supermarket was long gone and had been replaced by a Super Valu.  The Super Valu store was demolished and replaced at this time by the returning 2-level Zellers store.  The entire project involved the addition of 200 000 square feet of space and took 10 months to complete.  It was during this renovation that the white sails making up part of the roof were installed.

Before the expansion of 1988/89, the mall was the location for Circuit Circus Arcade, a place that I frequented for a few years in my youth to play arcade games such as Elevator Action, Double Dragon, and Blades of Steel.  Circuit Circus was located at the back of the mall near where the rear entrance to Zellers is currently located on the 2nd level.

The Eatons's store was purchased and replaced by Sears in 2000.  London Drugs opened the same year in an expansion of the mall on the 2nd level.

In August 31, 2002, the Millennium Line's Brentwood Town Centre SkyTrain Station opened.  The station and adjacent bus loop have established the area next to Brentwood Mall as a major transportation hub in North Burnaby.

In 2007, a renovation and extension of the food court was completed along with an update of the washrooms.   In 2008, the washrooms were awarded the Powder Room Seal of Approval as the best washrooms in British Columbia.

By 2010, the mall had 125 stores and services.

In early 2010, Brentwood Town Centre Mall was purchased by Vancouver-based Shape Properties.  The new owner has stated its plans to renovate and expand the existing mall along with a densification of the property with the addition of residential and commercial buildings on the surrounding parking lots.  Details of this project have yet to be released.

In early 2011, the Zellers chain was sold to US retailing giant, Target Corp by its parent company Sears.  Although an announcement on the future of the store  has not yet been made, the Brentwood Zellers will be replaced either by a Target store or by another retailer as Target intends to piece off certain locations if it doesn't itself occupy them.  Target plans to renovate the locations that it will occupy and will most likely collaborate with the mall owner as part of a larger expansion of the mall in the near future.


CISC Canada
Vancouver Sun (archive)
Wikipedia (mall)
Wikipedia (station)

Monday, March 7, 2011

A place to workout: Gold's Gym

Not paying attention to where I was while riding the Millennium Line home from work one day last week, I inadvertently got off at the wrong stop at Gilmore Station.  Looking out from the platform of Gilmore Station while waiting for the next train, I noticed the back of Gold's Gym.  At 5:20 in the afternoon the facility appeared busy as many people could be seen going through their workout routines.

One can look right into Gold's Gym when waiting
 for the eastbound train at Gilmore Station

Situated conveniently next to Gilmore Station, Gold's Gym is in a prime location and the number of patrons at 5:20pm on a weekday clearly demonstrates this.

Brentwood Town Centre Station from dawn to dusk

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Affinity rising at Douglas and Dawson

In May of 2010, the site of the Affinity project on Douglas Rd was just being excavated for the 2-tower development.  In less than 10 months, the towers are beginning to take shape as they rise out of the ground as seen from Brentwood Mall.  The project is scheduled for completion in 2012.