Proposed high-tech city development in Abbotsford undergoing redesign

Mar 5 2020, 2:36 pm

Proponents of the colossal WeTown development project in Abbotsford have announced that they are shifting gears, with a “relaunch” of the project after a redesign and rebranding as the Abbotsford Tech District (ATD).

According to a release, ATD will still retain a mix of residential, educational, and commercial uses, but the yet-to-be-released new concept is based on the new community and municipal feedback received since the original proposal was revealed last year. The project is proposed by locally-based Auguston Town Development, and designed by Hong Kong-based Avoid Obvious Architects.

Abbotsford city council initially welcomed the WeTown proposal in October 2019 for further consideration by city staff, but in December it rejected the associated costs of about $700,000 for the required city planning work.

There were also concerns with how the scope of the project at its rural location on a 91.5-acre hillside — on the western side of Sumas Mountain — would conflict with the official community plan and compete with Abbotsford’s designated downtown area about 11 km away.

We respect the challenging balance that council and staff have to strike in coming to a decision,” said Ian Renton, the general manager of Auguston Town Development, in a statement. “As we relaunch our efforts, we will continue to work to support Abbotsford’s future, with a focus on the needs of the community.”

There is now an emphasis for a “comprehensive vision that aligns with future growth plans for the region,” which hints at a smaller scale but still significant project.

Proponents assert their project aligns with the provincial government’s goal of supporting the development of a Fraser Valley innovation corridor, providing new housing options and economic opportunities for the growing population in other areas of the Lower Mainland.

The provincial government has already committed to spearheading an integrated housing and transportation approach into analyzing a possible new commuter rail service between Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

We think the Abbotsford Tech District can contribute significantly to the emerging government, business, and academic discussions about the Fraser Valley innovation corridor,” said Gavin Dew, the chief strategic advisor of ATD.

“From Vancouver to Chilliwack, the need for good transportation, accessible housing and family-supporting jobs is adding fuel to that conversation. While our core focus on agritech and aerospace is geared toward Abbotsford’s natural strengths, the Abbotsford Tech District can be a catalyst for economic development for the Fraser Valley and BC as a whole.”

The previous WeTown concept, located just south of McKee Road near Blauson Boulevard, and a five-minute drive from the Trans Canada Highway, called for as many as three dozen buildings, including towers in excess of 24 storeys.

It included 15.5 million sq. ft. of total floor area, entailing 2.15 million sq. ft. of office space, 1.45 million sq. ft. of university and research institute space, 9.368 million sq. ft. of residential space, 1.2 million sq. ft. of retail space, and 330,00 sq. ft. of hotel space. There would be enough space to host up to 18,000 jobs and 29,000 residents within about 12,500 homes.

Abbotsford WeTown

Artistic rendering depicting the former concept for ‘WeTown’ in Abbotsford. (Avoid Obvious Architects)