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Burnaby's big three malls pacing city's growth with mega-projects

Sixth-largest development site in all of Western Canada
Shape’s leasing manager Helen Rego: Amazing Brentwood nearly fully leased.

Burnaby and Coquitlam are neighbouring Metro Vancouver suburban municipalities but, based on building permit values, the two represent the sixth largest real estate development site in Western Canada.

With a monthly average of $64 million worth of construction this year, the two centres are on pace to challenge the $1 billion-plus in permits issued in 2020.

In the first quarter of this year, Burnaby alone issued $135.7 million in building permits and, tellingly, commercial construction accounted for the largest slice of the action, at 38 per cent, representing 94 separate projects.

Most of the construction cranes are flocking to three hubs: Metrotown in Burnaby, home the largest shopping mall in British Columbia; Burnaby’s Amazing Brentwood, where the first of three phases is now finishing; and the City of Lougheed, where $7 billion in mixed-use construction is well underway.

In Burnaby, the Amazing Brentwood, by Shape Properties, is setting the pace for complex, mixed-use developments in the region.

Located in the Brentwood neighbourhood, the 28-acre master planned community will be built over three phases. The first phase, currently in the final stretch, includes 450,000 square feet of new retail space and three residential towers – including 300 rental homes. In all, 11 towers are planned and two of the tallest in Burnaby – at 49 storeys – are already complete. (The tallest building in Western Canada, a 64-storey residential high rise by Onni Group, has been approved nearby at Gilmore and Lougheed.)

“The Amazing Brentwood’s retail spaces are now approximately 90 per cent leased with 61 tenants already in place,” said Helen Rego, leasing manager, Shape Properties, who notes the centre is a magnet for top-brand retailers.

“Nike, Adidas, H&M, H&M Home, The Rec Room, Sephora, and Cineplex VIP are just some of the fantastic retailers that have opened or will be opening soon at The Amazing Brentwood,” Rego said.

While Brentwood continues, the City of Burnaby is forging ahead with a long-range plan to create a downtown core from scratch. The process will eventually see many new high rises, plazas, parks and streets built to replace the Metropolis at Metrotown shopping centre – but Canada’s third-busiest mall isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Burnaby council is working on a master plan for the 46 acres that are currently home to 1.7 million square feet of retail space. When fully approved, city staff will work with developer Ivanhoe Cambridge on a plan that could take a century to fully implement. 

Concord has already submitted plans to build six residential towers, ranging from 35 to 65 storeys on an adjacent site.

Over the next 10 years, relatively little will change at Metropolis, said Graeme Silvera, Ivanhoe’s vice president of development and retail. 

The redevelopment has to comply with the long-term leases of its four anchor tenants, including the Hudson’s Bay department store whose lease runs into the 2080s, he said. 

“When you're dealing with a 100-year master plan, you have to really put on that long lens,” Silvera said.  

At the City of Lougheed, Shape is already deep into transforming 37 acres under the largest master planned project in B.C. When complete the city-within-a-city will include 23 high-rise towers that include an estimated 10,000 homes, one million square feet of office space and a refurbished and expanded shopping mall that will measure 1.4 million square feet.

Demand for land in Burnaby was underlined this February when the City of Burnaby called for bids on a 17-acre site on Marine Way: the minimum purchase price is $64 million.