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Metropolis at Metrotown master plan goes to council later this year for approval

The plan will add new roads, reduce indoor mall size, provide extra housing and a new outdoor park

On April 8, Ivanhoé Cambridge, the real estate company that owns the Metropolis at Metrotown Mall, held an open house at the mall to engage with Burnaby residents and obtain feedback about its plan to develop the mall. The new plan, which will involve demolishing and replacing sections of the mall with various other commercial, housing, and public spaces, will go to council for approval later this year. 

Visitors explore the master plan at the Ivanhoé Cambridge open house in the Central Court of Metropolis at Metrotown Mall. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Phase 1 is scheduled for completion in 2054, and according to Ivanhoé Cambridge, it will preserve 80% of the current mall. However, the plan shows significant changes, including breaking up the mall’s indoor space and inserting large roads that will divide the mall and require visitors and shoppers to cross large roads without pedestrian overpasses or other facilities. 

“In the next 30 years, 80% of what we have of the mall will still be here,” said Julie Bourgon, head of retail for Ivanhoé Cambridge. “The plan is to enhance the neighbourhood with more housing, keeping the retail as much as possible because people really like their mall. Maintaining the core centre of the mall.” 

Bourgon said discussions began with the city in 2017, with the first open house in 2019. Although the mall is a thriving, well-attended destination, the owner and the city have decided that it needs upgrading in keeping with changing times. 

“The mall was developed in the 1980s and has been a really successful destination for the neighbourhood and the region. This is an opportunity to think about the next 50 years of Metrotown downtown and how various land uses and new build forms can be added to the site both with indoor and outdoor retail and with new community amenities and park spaces so that it becomes less of a suburban commercial interior mall and more of a mixed-use complete community,” said Jesse Dill, director of development with the city. 

Ivanhoé Cambridge’s plans and publications say the new development will create a more walkable neighbourhood with public spaces like a new park and child care spaces. At present, the planned space for the new park is two acres. However, as the plans are not yet finalized, the exact area remains to be determined. 

Julie Bourgon, head of retail for Ivanhoé Cambridge. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

“Eventually, it will be the downtown of Burnaby so the goal is to provide residents with their needs. This mall is so well-attended, people love to shop, to eat, to come for groceries and bakeries,” Bourgon said.  

Bourgon said the plan includes residential towers providing around 12,000 units, 2,000 of them below-market rental units. She added that Ivanhoé Cambridge aims to increase tree coverage from the current 4% to 30% and add more green spaces, including the park, which will be donated to the city. 

“Other aspects of the application considers and incorporates a finer grade network of public streets, pedestrian connections, plazas and open spaces, so the intent is to establish a highly walkable downtown, with character streets that are activated by new commercial uses. By adding streets and new connections, we can then bring down a superblock and create new opportunities for more public spaces within the site,” Dill added. 

Once public engagement is over, the plan and public engagement results will go to council for approval later this year. Once it is approved, construction will begin, although Bourgon believes it may not start as soon as next year. 

“I don’t believe the timing is that short in terms of shovels in the ground. There are a lot of steps. But hopefully we can get it in front of city council by the end of this year,” she said.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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