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Burnaby celebrates grand opening of the city’s new works yard

The Laurel Street Works Yard project was more than a decade in the making

On Saturday, May 25, the City of Burnaby held a huge event to celebrate the grand opening of its new Laurel Street Works Yard, coinciding with Public Works Week

For city staff, the yard’s opening was about more than a day of celebration; it was the culmination of a decade’s work planning, designing, funding, and finally building the new yard. 

“Nobody ever thought that it would happen,” said Brian Carter, director of public works with the city. “It’s exciting for me because I live and breathe public works, and I’m passionate about it. It’s nice to finally see the finished product.” 

Carter told the Beacon that the project took place over several phases. One phase would be completed, allowing staff to move into it, after which construction would start on the next phase. 

“I was actually located by Deer Lake for four years,” Carter said. “About 175 staff were there for four years.” 

Around 350 city employees work at the Laurel Street Works Yard in infrastructure planning, surveying, public works administration, and garage operations. The yard houses the carpentry, plumbing, painting, welding, water sewage, and road maintenance staff. It also services all of the city’s vehicles. 

Vehicles being serviced inside the Laurel Street Works Yard garage. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

According to a council report dated Sept. 19, 2019, phase I cost $12,462,471.88, while a report from June 3, 2020, stated the cost for phase II as $68,523,000. Another report from Oct. 18, 2017, estimated the project’s total cost to be $76M. 

According to Carter, the opening celebration served as a community engagement event.  

“We want to show people what we do every single day. Let’s celebrate this so that everyone can appreciate the services provided to them on a daily basis,” he said.

The event was open to the public and people came from all over the city with their children to celebrate and learn about the inner workings of the city’s operations. 

Children, in particular, had many activities catering to them. Many of them queued up beside a parked police cruiser for a tour of the police cruiser. Every few minutes, the police siren would go off, startling attendees as a delighted child discovered how to activate it. 

At the carpentry workshop, kids could put on protective goggles and hard hats to build their own wooden boxes. Another popular spot was a sandbox where children could ride on miniature bulldozers and operate toy cranes. 

Children and parents building wooden boxes at the carpenetry workshop. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Children and parents waiting for their turn to explore the RCMP police cruiser. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Children and parents playing in the sandbox. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Mayor Mike Hurley attended the event and spoke with the Beacon about the project. 

“It’s a really exciting day for our community, a modern, well-designed yard that would survive if there’s a major earthquake,” Hurley said. “It’s a great move forward for our community and also for our employees who have worked in not-so-great facilities for a long time, but now it’s all state-of-the-art.” 

Hurley gave a speech to open the new yard. He cut the ribbon and unveiled a plaque commemorating the event. City councillors Sav Dhaliwal, Pietro Calendino, Richard Lee, Daniel Tetrault, and James Wang also attended the opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony. 

Uncovering the plaque. From left: Brian Carter, Pietro Calendino, Daniel Tetrault, Sav Dhaliwal, Leon Gous, Mike Hurley, James Wang and Richard Lee. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

The city’s chief administrative officer, Leon Gous, also gave a short speech about the project. Gous said that when he first joined the city in 2013, the old yard consisted of 1950s machinery and equipment that needed an upgrade and could not meet the needs of the rapidly growing city. 

During the decade it took to complete the project, Gous worked on planning, defining, and funding it. 

“What you see here is a combined project from everyone involved,” Gous said. “We always look with a really long-term vision when we do these kinds of things because it’s not easy to do it. We can’t come back and keep building them all the time. So what we did here was a real vision to last us into that 50 to 80-year horizon.”

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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