Squamish First Nation and City of Vancouver reach agreement on Senakw project

May 26 2022, 12:34 am

A milestone on the massive Senakw redevelopment has been reached, with the Squamish First Nation announcing today it has achieved a services agreement with the City of Vancouver.

While the multi-tower, mixed-use development does not need to follow the municipal government’s planning processes as it is located on the First Nation’s reserve, the development critically depends on the city to provide it with utilities connections, specifically water and storm sewer services.

Additionally, the agreement stipulates “significant upgrades and investments to pedestrian, cycling, transit, and road improvements.”

“Sen̓áḵw has been a Sḵwx̱wú7mesh village site for thousands of years. With the overwhelming support of our Squamish People, the Sen̓áḵw development will generate enormous wealth for our community and see the return of Squamish People to our village that past Canadian governments forcibly evicted us from,” said Squamish Nation elected councillor and spokesperson Wilson Williams in a statement.

In an overwhelming vote of support, the First Nation’s members self-approved the project and development partnership with Westbank in December 2019.

There will be a total of 12 buildings on the six-acre reserve at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge, with the tallest tower reaching up to 59 storeys at 172 metres (564 ft).

Altogether, there would be 6,000 homes for as many as 9,000 people, with the vast majority of these units set to be market rental housing. About 300 units are also eyed as below-market rental homes dedicated to the First Nation’s members.

Most of the remaining homes could be leasehold stratified condominiums, and some of these condominiums could potentially be made available to Squamish members at below-market as well.

senakw burrard bridge

Artistic rendering of Senakw and the bus exchange on the Burrard Street Bridge. (Revery Architecture/Westbank/Squamish First Nation)


The retail component of Senakw in Phases 2/3/4. Public realm and restaurant space of Phase 2/3/4 of Senakw. Bike parkade in Phase 2/3/4 of Senakw. (Revery Architecture/Westbank/Squamish First Nation)

Additional uses entail ample amenities for residents, and neighbourhood-serving commercial spaces such as a grocery store, retail units, and restaurants. There would also be green and public open spaces for both residents and the community.

Only a small fraction of the homes will be provided with a vehicle parking stall, with the First Nation instead turning to enhancing public transit and active transportation connections to fulfill its transportation demand management needs.

To achieve this, the Senakw project could include major changes and additions to the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge that widen the bridge deck to add in TransLink bus stops, while also accommodating direct links for pedestrian and cyclists from the creation of new ramping pathways between the development site below and the bridge deck.

The First Nation is also hoping to see the realization of the city’s long-term plans to build a streetcar network, with a stop serving Senakw.

Construction on the first phase of Senakw — the shorter towers on the west side of the bridge, closest to Vanier Park — is now expected to begin later this year.

senakw burrard bridge

Artistic rendering of the TransLink bus exchange on the Burrard Street Bridge serving Senakw. (Revery Architecture/Westbank/Squamish First Nation)

senakw streetcar

Artistic rendering of the Senakw streetcar station at the easternmost end of the reserve at the intersection of West 1st Avenue and 1st Street. (Revery Architecture/Westbank/Squamish First Nation)

As the project is on reserve, the First Nation does not need to seek the City of Vancouver’s permission to build the project, nor is it required to follow its building application processes and bylaws.

“As a City of Reconciliation, the Sen̓áḵw development is a crucial and ambitious step forward in making Vancouver a city for us all. It is an honour to help support the Squamish Nation’s sovereignty as well as help expand services for Indigenous Peoples including eldercare, education, language, and cultural supports,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a statement, adding that the project’s thousands of homes will make a real dent in housing affordability and supply issues.

“I couldn’t be more proud to support such an historic and visionary project – the largest First Nations economic development in Canadian history.”

The market residential uses of the project are projected to generate $10 billion in long-term revenue for the First Nation, over the lifespan of the buildings.

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