Plans for new Burnaby City Hall in Metrotown cancelled over cost

Sep 13 2023, 9:32 pm

Burnaby City Council has kicked the ball of building a new replacement and expanded City Hall campus within Metrotown back to City of Burnaby staff due to public opposition.

Ahead of Monday’s public meeting, City staff had recommended the redevelopment of Metrotown’s Civic Square city block — where the Bob Prittie Metrotown Public Library and the Civic Square public plaza are currently located — into a new City Hall campus.

This follows a public consultation process conducted earlier this year, which identified a total of three City Hall location and development options within Metrotown, including a high-rise office tower option on the Burnaby Firefighters’ Public House site or a redevelopment of the Bonsor Recreation Complex and Park site.

Based on the City’s survey, 46% supported the Civic Square redevelopment option, 11% supported Bonsor, 10% supported the firefighters’ public house, but 33% also said none of the options.

For that reason, during the meeting, City Council unanimously approved Mayor Mike Hurley’s replacement motion calling on City staff to retain the existing City Hall campus location north of Deer Lake. City Council still supports the need for new replacement City Hall facilities, but it will instead be built at the existing location.

Hurley said the estimated $838 million cost figure for the Metrotown redevelopment “scared me and others,” as it would have not only gone towards building a new City Hall but also the cost of replacing existing community and recreational facilities on the site, such as the library at Civic Square, as well as the planned Metrotown convention and event centre.

A previous separate study estimated the convention and event centre alone will carry a cost of $460 million.

“The issue for me of moving to Metrotown is we’d try to program too much in and would have got away from the basic City Hall. That’s why I think here we can stick to a basic city hall that meets their needs,” said Hurley.

burnaby city hall metrotown location options

The three site options for the new Burnaby City Hall in Metrotown: Option 1 – Library and Civic Square site (left); Option 2 – Burnaby Firefighters’ Public House site (centre); Option 3 – Bonsor Recreation Complex and Park site (right). (City of Burnaby)

The mayor explained City staff began exploring relocation and redevelopment options after determining it was not possible to install energy-efficient windows at the existing City Hall campus. After conducting more investigative work, they found out the buildings were in “pretty bad shape” seismically and did not meet standards. Simple upgrades such as adding air conditioning units on the rooftop are also not possible.

The existing City Hall campus at 4949 Canada Way was constructed in 1955.

“There are big issues with this building, nobody here is looking forward to or wants a new building. This is being forced upon us right now, and it’s something we have to deal with, and that’s why we’re moving forward. It’s not something any of us want, but it’s an absolute need,” continued the mayor, who added that “most people want [City Hall] to remain where it is.”

City staff’s rationale for relocating City Hall to Metrotown includes its more accessible location for most Burnaby residents, including public transit access, and the area’s prominence as Burnaby’s downtown, in accordance with the City’s Metrotown Downtown Plan of intensifying civic uses in the area.

A renovation of the existing City Hall could extend its lifespan by up to 20 years, but fundamentally, the municipal government is pursuing a long-term solution.

“It’s a 100-year investment for our residents. That’s what we have to remember,” said Hurley. “How will City Hall serve us in 30, 50, and 70 years?”

4949 Canada Way Burnaby City Hall

Existing Burnaby City Hall at 4949 Canada Way, Burnaby. (Google Maps)

4949 Canada Way Burnaby City Hall

Existing Burnaby City Hall at 4949 Canada Way, Burnaby. (Google Maps)

burnaby hiring

Existing Burnaby City Hall (City of Burnaby)

Hurley suggested the new replacement City Hall buildings at the current site will be a campus, lower-storey type of configuration, instead of the high-rise office tower options that were proposed for Metrotown.

“I do think there were some positives to moving to Civic Square, and some benefits there, but given the potential cost of the move and the lukewarm response we got from folks in Burnaby, I cannot support this at the moment,” said City Councillor Daniel Tetrault, before adding that he would like to see a cost comparison on various renewal or redevelopment options.

City Councillor Maita Santiago added, “By keeping it at this location, we’re also able to keep it in the geographical centre, the four quadrants we have in Burnaby.”

City Councillor Alison Gu expressed concern over the years-long temporary service impacts on existing community facilities, specifically the library, for the Civic Square option.

Although the City of Burnaby has returned to the drawing board on its City Hall redevelopment plans, it is advancing on its strategy to build a new replacement and expanded Burnaby RCMP headquarters campus at a new City-owned location near the existing City Hall campus. The estimated cost is over $160 million.

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