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Mega-development plans unveiled in Burnaby for 5,000 homes, film studio

Willingdon Lands at located at Willingdon and Canada Way

The Musqueam Indian Band, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Aquilini Development unveiled on Friday their massive master plan proposed for the redevelopment of the Willingdon Lands in Burnaby.

The plan outlines the creation of a mixed-use, contemporary Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh urban village that, if approved, would provide approximately 5,000 housing units and include a 450,000-square-foot film studio that will could more than 3,000 new, long-term jobs to the city.

Located on the southwest corner of Willingdon Avenue and Canada Way, the 40-acre Willingdon Lands lie on the shared territory of the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations. In 2014, the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations along with Aquilini Development purchased the lands from the provincial government.

“Our vision for the Willingdon Lands is to create a contemporary Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh urban village that provides a cultural experience, is interconnected with nature, and allows us to tell our stories through placemaking and design,” said Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow, in a statement. “This is an opportunity for us to continue our legacy as land developers and economic forces within the modern landscape. With this project, we will continue to advance reconciliation and accommodation and create a positive legacy for future generations.”

According to a news release, the site’s design will incorporate a number of elements inspired by the nations’ history, culture, and connection to the lands and waters such as entry portals, artwork, native plants, a medicine garden, and wayfinding signage in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and English. There will also be a Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh cultural centre and an outdoor hearth that “will serve as a gathering place for both the nations and the wider community.”

“Storytelling is an integral part of Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh oral tradition and culture,” Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Jen Thomas said in a statement. “In reimagining this site, we wanted to embed storytelling into the space in ways both big and small – from the film studio, the cultural centre and the community hearth to the use of native plants, hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ placenames and educational signage.”

With approximately 5,000 residential units, the plan outlines a variety of housing tenures, types, sizes, and levels of affordability that will appeal to a broad range of individuals and families. Housing types include leasehold strata, market rental, moderate-income rental, affordable rental and live-work units in a variety of sizes and formats. A child-care centre is also planned for the site.

The master plan will be officially presented to the City of Burnaby’s planning and development committee on Nov. 23 and will be followed by public consultations, which will culminate in a public hearing anticipated for next spring.

“The connection to the lands and waters is a key component of the master plan,” said a news release. “The landscaping will use native plants, trees will be selected for longevity and shade, gardens will feature edible and medicinal plants and rain gardens will naturally capture stormwater. The project will also daylight a section of Sumner Creek, restoring a part of the natural creek system to the neighbourhood.”

The inclusion of the film studio in the plan relates to Burnaby’s 2020 Economic Development Plan, which specifically identifies the Willingdon Lands as the site for a new media urban village. Plans call for a 450,000-square-foot film studio.

“This project is the first of its kind in Burnaby,” said Ryan Seminoff, president of Aquilini Development, in a statement. “We are very grateful to have been invited by the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations to be a partner on this important project, which will celebrate Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh culture in Burnaby and add to the growing portfolio of Indigenous-led development projects.”