City of Vancouver planning to densify around SkyTrain's Renfrew and Rupert stations

Dec 1 2021, 1:10 am

The areas around two SkyTrain stations along the Millennium Line in East Vancouver are being eyed for far greater density.

Earlier this month, Vancouver City Council provided city staff with the green light to initiate a planning process for the area around Renfrew Station and Rupert Station.

The area that will fall under this planning process is generally roughly framed by Nanaimo Street to the west, East 1st Avenue to the north, Boundary Road to the east, and East 23rd Avenue to the south, along with the pocket of light industrial properties and the Vancouver Police Department (former VANOC) headquarters in the northwest corner of this area.

This also includes 200 acres of employment lands that immediately surround both stations and is currently occupied by big box retail (such as Superstore, Walmart, and Lowe’s Home Improvement), warehouses, Vancouver Film Studios, and office buildings with private post-secondary institutions.

renfrew rupert station skytrain area plan

Existing employment and industrial land uses within the area plan for SkyTrain Renfrew and Rupert stations. (City of Vancouver)

The immediate areas around the stations are expected to largely align with the city’s Employment Lands and Economy Review of intensifying commercial and industrial development, while areas on the periphery — specifically the large areas of single-family neighbourhoods — could focus on additional housing.

However, the area immediately northwest of Renfrew Station is being considered for special exceptions. The municipal government received a rezoning enquiry for 3200 East Broadway and 2625 Rupert Street — a 10-acre site that was previously the BC Liquor Distribution Branch warehouse.

This former liquor warehouse property was acquired in 2014 by a partnership between the Aquilini Investment Group and the MST Development Corporation (for-profit developer entity of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations) for $37 million. They have indicated to the city that they are looking to redevelop the sprawling, sloped site into a mix of uses, including light industrial and commercial uses, and rental housing.

renfrew rupert station skytrain area plan

Major development sites within the area plan for SkyTrain’s Renfrew and Rupert stations. (City of Vancouver)

3200 east broadway vancouver liquor warehouse

The former BC Liquor Distribution Branch Warehouse at 3200 East Broadway, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

3200 east broadway vancouver liquor warehouse

Conceptual sketch of the redevelopment of the former BC Liquor Distribution Branch Warehouse at 3200 East Broadway, Vancouver. (Aquilini Development)

The proposed residential component of the liquor warehouse redevelopment is currently not allowed for these employment lands and would require a change of designation under the city’s Regional Context Statement Official Development Plan and final approval by Metro Vancouver Regional District. A formal rezoning application for the proposal has yet to be submitted.

In its Metro 2050 draft plan, the regional district has already indicated that it would consider allowing mixed-use densities for industrial lands immediately next to SkyTrain stations, provided that the redevelopments offer a combination of residential uses above industrial and commercial uses. With a severe regional shortage of industrial space, these areas are not expected to lose their primary designation for employment uses.

The land uses next to both SkyTrain stations were previously revised in 2011 to allow higher density general office space, which catalyzed LaSalle College’s plans to build a new seven-storey, 110,000 sq ft building at 2710 Kaslo Street near Renfrew Station. Construction on the new replacement and expanded school space began this past summer.

LaSalle College Vancouver 2710 Kaslo Street

Artistic rendering of the new campus of LaSalle College Vancouver at 2710 Kaslo Street. (LaSalle College)

2298 Cassiar Street Vancouver Skeena Terrace

Existing buildings of Skeena Terrace at 2298 Cassiar Street, Vancouver. (Government of BC)

Within the area plan for study is the provincial government’s Skeena Terrace site at 2298 Cassiar Street, about an eight-minute walk from Rupert Station. Earlier this year, BC Housing initiated a separate planning process for redeveloping this 11-acre property with ageing social housing properties into a diverse mix of housing, including replacement units for existing tenants.

City staff have noted there are some limitations with the development potential of the area, specifically south of the SkyTrain guideway and CN railway, as it falls within the floodplain of Still Creek, which cuts through much of the employment lands. As part of the area planning process, flood risk mitigation and natural enhancements will be major considerations for the areas around Still Creek.

The planning process will also consider the potential need for long-term solutions that provide grade separation for the CN railway, as its street-level crossings are already creating challenges for north-south street access in the area, especially with the increasing frequency and length of the passing trains.

renfrew rupert station skytrain area plan

Still Creek floodplain and watershed in the area plan for SkyTrain’s Renfrew and Rupert stations. (City of Vancouver)

Similar to the Broadway Plan, the forthcoming planning process for the area around Rupert and Renfrew stations could include an interim rezoning policy, complete with a temporary development contribution expectation policy. Restricting the types of rezonings until the area plan is complete would serve to limit land value speculation. An interim rezoning policy for the study area is expected to be considered by city council in early 2022.

With ample public consultation guiding the process, the city is aiming to finalize the area plan for the stations by early 2023.

A formal rezoning application for the former liquor warehouse site is anticipated in the second half of 2022, with a public hearing possible in the third quarter of 2023. Considerations to the regional district policies that would allow for more flexible uses with the employment lands would be made concurrently.

According to the city, the area plan around Rupert and Renfrew stations will be the first community plan to implement the goals and policies of the Vancouver Plan.

skytrain renfrew station

SkyTrain Renfrew Station (Google Maps)

skytrain rupert station

SkyTrain Rupert Station (Google Maps)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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