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Burnaby’s Metrotown library could be redeveloped into new 'iconic' city hall

The new city hall in Metrotown will include a redeveloped library, child-care centre, space for restaurants and cafés, and a bigger public plaza to replace Civic Square.

Burnaby city staff are recommending a new home for city hall: Metrotown’s Bob Prittie Library and Civic Square.

It comes after a summer of public engagement showed the location at 6100 Willingdon Ave. was the public’s preferred site, according to a staff report going to council Monday, Sept. 11.

The 4.4-acre site is currently home to a library and “well-used green space” about 300 metres west of Metrotown SkyTrain station and bus loop.

The report says the location is particularly “unique”: no other site has public access on all four sides.

“Having a virtually unencumbered site also allows for engaging, iconic architecture and public spaces that help define Metrotown as a community with an emerging identity that is representative of the city, while at the same time, could be forward looking in its playful, exciting, timeless, inclusive and welcoming design.”

Staff are recommending the new city hall include a redeveloped library, child-care centre, ground-oriented commercial space for businesses like restaurants and cafés, and a “reconfigured and enlarged public plaza” to replace Civic Square.

The city says Metrotown was selected for its “overall accessibility for most of Burnaby’s residents, be it by transit, active forms of transportation, or by car.”

The city also plans for Metrotown to become Burnaby’s “downtown,” or “the primary urban focal point for the city.”

The current Burnaby City Hall building was built in 1955; the campus has now spread over five buildings in the Deer Lake campus.

The city says the facility has reached the end of its life, as the cost of “necessary” seismic upgrades “far exceed the value of retaining the existing structures.”

The staff report notes the building also no longer meets the city’s energy or accessibility standards, and that city services “have long outgrown the building.”

Renovations and upgrades would extend the building’s life “by only 20 years,” according to the report.

The report says rebuilding the facility at its existing location near Deer Lake was considered but not offered as an option due to the cost required to establish a temporary city hall during three years of construction.

City staff have recommended Metrotown library and Civic Square as the new site for Burnaby City Hall. By City of Burnaby

Burnaby City Hall public engagement

While Civic Square was the preferred option out of the three Metrotown choices (46 per cent of more than 4,000 respondents ranked it as their first choice), the fourth option “none of the above” garnered a 33 per cent of the respondents’ top choice.

Some Burnaby residents have already opposed moving city hall from its current Deer Lake campus.

The city’s engagement showed a majority of respondents (1,880) said they “never visit the existing city hall” or “only once or twice a year” (1,322 respondents).

It also showed some concerns including traffic congestion in Metrotown, a lack of parking, the removal of green open spaces and the removal of Bob Prittie Library.

The three choices the public voted on were:

  • Civic Square
  • Firefighters Public House
  • Bonsor Recreation Complex and Park site

Burnaby’s Metrotown Library

Bob Prittie Metrotown Library opened in 1991 and has been renovated three times in the past decade. Most recently, council approved $4.8 million for renovations on the library last year.

The report says integrating the library with the new city hall would be “advantageous as it would allow a larger public plaza to be created once the existing library is demolished.”

While the existing Civic Square site is redeveloped, staff will find temporary outdoor activity space and library services nearby to use.

Staff did not recommend a cultural venue, as they said it would create a “highly impenetrable block” by impacting the space available for a public plaza.

Staff will begin project planning “without further delay,” as the cost of delay for a project of this scale is estimated to be between $2 million and $3 million per month due to construction cost inflation.

The estimated timeline will be a year of planning to the third quarter of 2024, one to two years in the design stage until 2026, and three years of construction between 2027 and 2030.

The current five-year financial plan has $74 million budgeted for the city hall replacement, though the city’s general manager of lands and facilities, James Lota, told the NOW in May the cost of the project would exceed that number.

Council will vote to approve the new city hall plan at its meeting Sept. 11.

The future of the current city hall site at Deer Lake will be considered under the city’s Official Community Plan review.

Correction: An earlier headline stated Metrotown library is "to be" redeveloped into the new city hall. That is incorrect. Council will vote on the staff recommendation to select the location at Bob Prittie Metrotown Library for a new city hall at its meeting Monday, Sept. 11.

📢 SOUND OFF: What do you think of the plans to move Burnaby City Hall? Do you think Metrotown Library and Civic Square is the right spot? Share your thoughts — send us a letter.