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Local First Nations are focussing on long-term economic independence via a series of big-money property developments in the Vancouver area.

First: Mike Howell reports in the Vancouver Courier that the Musqueam FN has reached a milestone on its UBC project.  Its scale, look and feel give hints about the “big one” — Jericho.

The provincial government is about to give the 1,300-member band the green light to build a massive residential development on its land in the University Endowment Lands  . . .     The project includes four 18-storey highrises, several rows of townhouses and mid-rise apartment buildings, a community centre, a childcare facility, commercial space for a grocery store and restaurants, a public plaza, a large park and wetlands area. All of it will be spread over 21.4 acres of what is now forest along University Boulevard, bounded by Acadia Road, Toronto Road and Ortona Avenue.


Thanks to the Vancouver Courier, photo by Dan Toulgoet

The Musqueam FN has hired former ban CFO Stephen Lee and former CLC employee Doug Avis to head up the Musqueam Capital Corporation, which offloads land development and other business activities from the band council.

[Chief] Sparrow, [Operations Manager] Mearns, Lee and Avis made it clear the end goal of the projects is to create opportunities for Musqueam’s young people and inspire them to pursue higher learning and take advantage of what’s in front of them. Lee and Avis are not Musqueam members but say they hope one day to be replaced by band members.

“We’ll make money on the developments, there’s no doubt about it,” Mearns said. “But that’s not really where the big value will come from. It’s how we raise the entire community capacity as a result of these projects and develop people to not only get careers as carpenters, plumbers, planners, engineers, doctors, lawyers — whatever — but it’s also to have people go out and develop their own businesses and get their own contracts.”

The Courier article is a fascinating journey along a trail that is shameful at times and hopeful at others.

Second: the 21-acre (8.5 hectare) Heather Lands, involving three FN and the Canada Lands Company (CLC).  The first open house will be tomorrow, Saturday Sept 24, 12:00 to 3 pm. Details HERE.  City of Vancouver launch events are to be Oct 15 and 17.

Apparently, the Heather Lands are also known as “Fairmont Lands”. Who knew?

Hints as to the planning outcome from the FN-CLC point of view are in THIS 25-page document from CoV, Appendix “D.  Joint Venture Guiding Planning Principles”. Presumably, many of these FN-CLC principles will also apply to the upcoming much bigger Jericho development. The principles, happily, include “…prioritize walking, cycling and transit…”, among many others. Cheesy car suburbs look unlikely.

The CoV document also lays out a big batch of overarching plans that will inform CoV’s Fairmont (Heather) Lands planning outcome.  Among them:  Land use, Density, Height, Public benefits, Transportation, Built form and character, Heritage, Sustainability, Development phasing.

Hopefully, the groups will meet somewhere in the middle of these various visions, which obviously differ in some areas e.g. affordability v.s. maximization of triple bottom line (page 18).  To me, at this stage, there looks like plenty of common ground.

Density will, of course, be the big hot public topic. Via its proxy — building height.  And let’s not forget the ever-popular vehicle storage (parking).


Thanks to MST-CLC Joint Venture and City of Vancouver

Thanks to Frances Bula for this in the Globe and Mail.  Note the possibility that the development will retain an existing 1920-era heritage building.  Note also the potential for City of Vancouver mandated affordable housing components, housing for FN members, and moderate to high density (as at nearby Cambie Street).