Friday, October 21, 2011

Town Centre concept not an ad hoc idea

2 more articles on the density debate

(Burnaby NewsLeader letter to the editor)
Burnaby residents support city centre concept

Published: October 20, 2011 4:00 PM 
Updated: October 20, 2011 4:41 PM

I read Grant Granger’s column “A surreal spin around Metrotown” (NewsLeader, Oct. 7) with great interest. Many of his observations hit the mark and reflect more than three decades of collective wisdom around the issue of urban growth.
Conceived in the late seventies and early eighties, Burnaby’s major town centres—Metrotown, Brentwood, Lougheed and Edmonds—were designed to be hubs of residential and commercial activity, as well as transportation hubs.
The town centre concept has been supported historically across the political spectrum in Burnaby. As a council member and past housing committee chair, I always believed it was important that there was a community “buy-in” to the town centre concept and densification. High density development outside the town centre has been restricted and successive councils have taken care to ensure that multi-family and commercial development in other areas has followed careful consultation.
There has never been much appetite for densification of single and two-family neighbourhoods and it is indeed surprising and a bit troubling that some aspiring politicians are advocating for it now.
Lee Rankin
Team Burnaby council candidate

Burnaby NewsLeader - Opinion

COLUMN: A surreal spin around Metrotown

Sometimes a bicycle ride can be a shock to the system, and not just because of potholes.
Riding around Burnaby can be illuminating in showing how the city is changing. But every once in a while the experience can be somewhat surreal.
That was the case a couple of times this summer. The first came during a trip from Vancouver through the streets north of Hastings. When I emerged at Willingdon my eyes were saying, “Hey, something’s different.”
It was a pleasant enough sight. A nice piece of green space at the southwest corner of the city’s Confederation Park property. Still, it was surreal.
What was missing was the iconic Burnaby Heights Resource Centre.
Later in the summer, while moseying along the path underneath the SkyTrain, a pile of rubble appeared with a previously unseen skyline behind it.
After doing a double take, the realization hit me that the last remaining warehouses from a bygone era had been knocked down at Telford and Beresford. Prior to the arrival of rapid transit and the mega-mall, the Metrotown area was dominated by warehouses.
The demolition was done to make way for a reach-for-the-sky highrise project. Similar forty-something storey construction sites have begun at Nelson and Bennett, and Kingsway and Willingdon.
For the longest time, Burnaby’s ‘highrises’ were in the 20s, storey wise. A few years ago, along came Centrepoint, which is on the other side of Kingsway from Metropolis at Metrotown. It was billed as the tallest building in Burnaby at 35 storeys.
These new ones will soar above Centrepoint. Good on them.
So far the city is restricting these tall drinks of concrete and glass to Metrotown. The area needs them, although not everybody would agree.
Since its inception, the vibrancy of Metrotown has grown gradually. It is just starting to come into its own as a place to be and reside. To take it to a Yaletown or Coal Harbour dynamic, it still needs more people, and the new projects will go a long way to providing it.
Since they’re on a rapid transit line, it’s also a close-to-perfect place for them.
It’s ironic the Burnaby Municipal Greens slate is upset about the changes proclaiming the area is already overcrowded and city facilities such as the library and Bonsor Recreation Centre too clogged. That position seems contrary to green thinking. One accepted way to reduce the environmental footprint is by increasing density in certain areas because it will reduce the need to travel. And the bonus is because the projects are going where no developer has gone before in Burnaby, the builders are forking over cash or constructing amenities to service the area’s residents.
The other benefit of higher density is an infusion of even more people to the area will actually make Metrotown safer. That’s been shown to be the case in Vancouver’s high-density areas.
What will be interesting to see in the next few years is whether or not this new construction will trigger a makeover of all the low-rise rental buildings between the SkyTrain and Imperial. The view from the current towers often is blighted by the tar-papered roofs of these buildings. They are no urban eye-candy from street-level either.
Some would disparage any thought of tearing those buildings long past their best-before dates down, labeling it gentrification. It sure would increase Metrotown’s attractiveness, though. There is some fear of a loss of rental stock, but chances are all the new highrises and the low-rise buildings that would replace them would have a lot of condo/townhouse owners looking to sublet and might just increase the stock.
One thing’s for sure, if they were transformed it would be yet another surreal sight in the ever-evolving Metrotown community.
• Grant Granger is a NewsLeader reporter, and maintains the biggest blight in Metrotown are the blue escalators in Sears that have been there since he was a kid.

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