Skeena Terrace: City Council approves master plan for BC Housing project in East Vancouver with 1,700 units of rentals and social housing

Jul 21 2022, 5:05 am

One of the largest development projects reviewed by the outgoing Vancouver City Council was endorsed at a breathtaking pace on Tuesday evening.

In a 10-0 vote, City Council approved the policy statement master plan for the future affordable housing redevelopment of BC Housing’s Skeena Terrace property in East Vancouver. Mayor Kennedy Stewart was absent from the decision.

This is an 11-acre redevelopment of the aging social housing complex at 2298 Cassiar Street, near the easternmost border of the City of Vancouver. The site is framed by East 5th Avenue to the north, Skeena Street to the east, Lougheed Highway to the south, and Cassiar Street to the west. It is a three-minute walk from SkyTrain Rupert Station.

Existing condition of Skeena Terrace:

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Existing condition of Skeena Terrace. (City of Vancouver)

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Existing condition of Skeena Terrace. (City of Vancouver)

Future condition of Skeena Terrace:

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Artistic rendering of the Skeena Terrace Policy Statement. (City of Vancouver)

There will be approximately 1,700 secured rental homes, with about 66% of the units dedicated as social housing at or below housing income limit rates — rented at no more than 30% of gross household income. The remainder 34% of the total number of units will be market rental homes.

Moreover, between 50% and 60% of the homes will be suitable for larger families with two or more bedrooms, including a target of 20% of the homes being three-bedroom to five-bedroom units.

This new housing supply includes one-for-one replacement units of the existing 230 units of social housing, which are currently home to about 600 tenants. These existing homes are contained within 1960s-built, low-rise structures that are now in poor condition. Skeena Terrace’s existing residents will be provided with the right-of-first-refusal to a new replacement affordable home, with the redevelopment conducted in multiple phases to minimize the displacement of existing tenants.

These new residential uses will be accomplished through low- and mid-rise buildings of six to 16 storeys, and three towers up to 36 storeys at the southeast corner of the site — the lowest point of Skeena Terrace, near the intersection of Lougheed Highway and Skeena Street.

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Building heights (number of floors) under the Skeena Terrace Policy Statement. (City of Vancouver)

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Mixed-use buildings in the Skeena Terrace Policy Statement. (City of Vancouver)

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Site layout under the Skeena Terrace Policy Statement. (City of Vancouver)

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Artistic rendering of a public space in the Skeena Terrace Policy Statement. (City of Vancouver)

There will be a total floor area of about 1.6 million sq ft for a floor area ratio density of a floor area that is three times larger than the size of the entire provincial government-owned property. This also includes up to 15,000 sq ft of local-serving retail and dining, a 5,600 sq ft community amenity hub, and a childcare facility for up to 74 kids — in addition to up to eight residential units licensed for family childcare operations.

Extensive open and green spaces will be built within this pedestrian-oriented redevelopment, which lacks new through-streets for vehicles. Minimal vehicle parking will be provided, with the overall redevelopment targeting a combined transportation modal share of 80% from public transit, walking, and cycling. Pedestrian links to the nearby SkyTrain station will be improved.

The newly approved policy statement will guide BC Housing’s future rezoning application for Skeena Terrace. After rezoning is achieved, the provincial government will proceed to submitting development permit applications for the various project phases.

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Transportation network in the Skeena Terrace Policy Statement. (City of Vancouver)

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Transportation network in the Skeena Terrace Policy Statement. (City of Vancouver)

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Artistic rendering of a public space in the Skeena Terrace Policy Statement. (City of Vancouver)

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Artistic rendering of a public space in the Skeena Terrace Policy Statement. (City of Vancouver)

During Tuesday’s meeting, City Council spent a total of only 23 minutes on the agenda item of Skeena Terrace’s policy statement, including hearing from City and BC Housing staff, and just a single public speaker — an immense contrast to the scale and type of opposition seen for other housing projects elsewhere in Vancouver that are a small fraction of Skeena Terrace’s size.

BC Housing made public its intention to redevelop Skeena Terrace in January 2021, and the first public consultation on the policy statement began in June 2021.

“I’m pleased at the level of affordability, and commitment to climate action in terms of retention of trees. I think this is a great project,” said Green Party councillor Adriane Carr.

Green Party councillor Pete Fry added: “It’s a great policy statement. Great work everybody, I think it’s really exciting.”

The policy statement is a site-wide master plan step that is usually required for large neighbourhood-sized redevelopments. For example, policy statements guiding future rezoning applications were created for the redevelopments of Oakridge Centre mall, Pearson-Dogwood, Heather Lands, Langara Gardens, Little Mountain, and TransLink’s old Oakridge bus depot.

The Jericho Lands redevelopment in West Point Grey is currently in the policy statement planning phase.

Skeena Terrace signals the start of major forthcoming changes to the general area, which includes portions of both the Hastings-Sunrise and Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhoods.

This past spring, City Council approved a planning process to create the Rupert and Renfrew Station Area Plan — a planning exercise equivalent to the Broadway Plan, Cambie Plan, and West End Plan for several square kilometres around both SkyTrain stations. This area plan also contains Skeena Terrace.

The draft Rupert and Renfrew Station Area Plan is expected to be finished by Spring 2023, with City Council expected to review the final plan for approval in Summer 2023. Public consultation will be held for the various stages of the planning process.

skeena terrace bc housing policy statement vancouver 2022

Artistic rendering of the Skeena Terrace Policy Statement. (City of Vancouver)

renfrew rupert station skytrain area plan

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

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