Dense, transit-oriented housing finally eyed for Nanaimo SkyTrain station

May 20 2022, 11:04 pm

Nearly 36 years after SkyTrain’s original Expo Line opened, high-density, transit-oriented development is now being explored for the area around Nanaimo Station.

Apart from a handful of low-rise apartment buildings, the station area is severely under-utilized as it is almost entirely surrounded by single-family homes.

It is now also one of the few station areas surrounded by residential zoning in Metro Vancouver without real transit-oriented density.

An idea gaining momentum is building the area’s first three high-rise towers, which may trigger the area’s transit-oriented development potential.

Existing condition:

skytrain nanaimo station vancouver

Existing condition of the area around SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. (Google Maps)

Possible future condition:

skytrain nanaimo station tod vancouver

Transit-oriented development concept for SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. (submitted)

This proposal aims to redevelop a combined total of 18 single-family lots across three land assembly sites next to the station.

This includes two 33-storey towers reaching 350 ft (107 metres) and a 35-storey tower reaching 370 ft (113 metres).

There would be a total of 861 homes, entailing a housing tenure mix of 700 condominium homes, 80 market rental homes, and 81 below-market rental homes.

Existing condition:

skytrain nanaimo station vancouver

Existing condition of the area around SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. (Google Maps)

Possible future condition:

skytrain nanaimo station tod vancouver

Transit-oriented development concept for SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. (submitted)

One-third of these homes would be suitable for families, defined as units with at least two bedrooms. The rental unit size mix is 32 studios, 33 one-bedroom units, 40 one-bedroom units with a den, 40 two-bedroom units, and 16 three-bedroom units, while the strata unit size mix is 140 studios, 140 one-bedroom units, 175 one-bedroom units with a den, 175 two-bedroom units, 60 three-bedroom units, and 10 three-bedroom townhouse units.

In exchange for the market residential density, the proponents are offering to dedicate two major multi-level community spaces within the lower floors of the two towers immediately north of the station. There would be a combined total of 45,000 sq ft of community space, which would be owned and managed by the municipal government or a not-for-profit organization. The types of uses in both spaces would be determined at a later date through consultation with city staff and the public.

skytrain nanaimo station tod vancouver

Transit-oriented development concept for SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. Building heights for the three project sites are noted. (submitted)

skytrain nanaimo station tod vancouver

Transit-oriented development concept for SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. (submitted)

skytrain nanaimo station tod vancouver

Transit-oriented development concept for SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. (submitted)

About 12,000 sq ft of neighbourhood-serving retail spaces would be located within the ground level of the closest tower, immediately facing the SkyTrain station and bus exchange, which recently underwent a complete rebuild with a new bus facility and transit plaza design.

All three towers would have a combined total floor area of 746,000 sq ft, establishing a floor area ratio density of a floor area that is 9.7 times larger than the size of the land assemblies. Three underground levels for each tower would accommodate a combined total of over 1,000 vehicle parking stalls.

The entities behind the proposal are not known at this time, but the concept is in the early stages of being considered by City of Vancouver staff through the pre-application enquiry process.

The municipal government intends to perform an area plan for Nanaimo Station, however it is unclear when this could begin. But earlier this spring, Vancouver City Council approved city staff’s planning process to create an area plan for Renfrew Station and Rupert Station. After a forthcoming planning process that involves public consultation, the draft area plan for Renfrew and Rupert stations is expected to reach completion for city council’s consideration in Spring 2023.

skytrain nanaimo station tod vancouver

Transit-oriented development concept for SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. (submitted)

skytrain nanaimo station tod vancouver

Transit-oriented development concept for SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. Click on the image for an expanded version of the map showing potential tower heights in the area. (submitted)

skytrain nanaimo station tod vancouver

Transit-oriented development concept for SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. (submitted)

An area plan for Nanaimo Station would not only guide building densities, heights, and uses, but also the required utilities, transportation infrastructure, and community amenities to support the growth.

Beyond the proposal’s three tower sites, the station’s immediate area could conceivably accommodate about a dozen more towers, with heights ranging between 12 and 35 storeys. This would be comparable to the heights and densities surrounding Joyce-Collingwood Station, which saw its own area plan approved by the previous city council in 2016.

TransLink ridership data shows Nanaimo Station saw 2.23 million boardings in 2019 — an average of 6,900 on weekdays — ranking it as SkyTrain’s 27th busiest station, out of 53 total stations. Just down the line, 29th Avenue Station has a similar performance, with 2.52 million boardings in 2019 — an average of 7,600 on weekdays — placing it as the 25th busiest SkyTrain station.

Joyce-Collingwood Station, in contrast, is the ninth busiest SkyTrain station, with 5.13 million annual boardings and an average weekday count of 15,300.

skytrain nanaimo station tod vancouver

Transit-oriented development concept for SkyTrain Nanaimo Station in Vancouver. (submitted)

skytrain nanaimo station vancouver

Existing single-family homes on one of the tower project sites immediately north of SkyTrain Nanaimo Station’s bus exchange. (Google Maps)

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