Five government, institutional, and First Nation entities announced today they have signed a joint agreement to “advocate” for an expedited completion of the SkyTrain extension reaching the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) campus.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) is between the City of Vancouver, UBC, and the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Development Corporation (MST-DC), the development arm of the three local First Nations behind the redevelopments of the Jericho Lands in Point Grey and the Heather Street Lands on the Cambie Corridor.
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This is being touted as the first MOU in Canada between a municipal government, an academic institution, and First Nations developers.
“The agreement sets a new example for how city-building in the 21st Century should work,” said Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart in a statement.
“Building SkyTrain all the way to UBC is a regional priority that will not only help connect academic and health sciences along Broadway with the rest of the region, it will put Reconciliation into practice as we work with the MST Development Corporation.”
The first stage of SkyTrain’s tunnelled Millennium Line extension along the Broadway Corridor to Arbutus Street — a distance of 5.7 kms with six stations — is slated to reach completion in 2025.
The travel time between the existing VCC-Clark Station and the future Arbutus Station is 11 minutes, and the remaining train journey to UBC is roughly an additional 10 minutes. A truncated 99 B-Line will serve the span between Arbutus Station and UBC until the SkyTrain extension is ready.
In early 2019, both Vancouver City Council and the Mayor’s Council approved the technology choice of a continuous SkyTrain extension of the Millennium Line to UBC. It was during this period the university also began its public advocacy campaign supporting the project.
TransLink is still in the early technical planning stages of bringing SkyTrain to campus, which is roughly a seven-km-long route at a cost of $2.8 billion to $3.2 billion in 2018 dollars. No funding for this project has been secured.
But the public transit authority is using $3 million in approved preliminary study funding for the extension to UBC. The next stage of detailed planning work expected to start later in 2020 will cost between $30 million and $40 million, which will lead to the creation of a business case.
The exact routing and vertical alignment (elevated/ground level/tunnelled) has yet to be determined, but potential station locations could include Macdonald Street, Alma Street, Sasamat Street, UBC’s academic core, and UBC Wesbrook Village.
MST-DC is potentially a major partner given that they are the developers of the 90-acre Jericho Lands, in partnership with federal crown corporation Canada Lands Company.
This consortium acquired the former government properties — provincial lands and Department of National Defence property — for $717 million for its immense redevelopment potential. It is not a reserve, and is required to abide with the municipal government’s review process and policies.
Today’s announcement did not formally specifically indicate MST-DC is interested in providing land and/or funding for the project, particularly a potential station that directly serves the Jericho Lands. But they have stated their desire for a direct SkyTrain connection to their redevelopment.
In a Mayors’ Council meeting in early 2019, Stewart noted that during internal discussions, the MST-DC suggested offering the land required for a station on their site.
“We are excited to join in partnership with our neighbours… and work together toward the shared vision of a SkyTrain line that connects the western edge of Metro Vancouver, specifically the Jericho Lands that were shared by our ancestors, with the rest of the region,” said the leadership of the MST-DC in a joint statement.
“The MOU demonstrates a great opportunity to show how interested parties working together can find mutually beneficial solutions and opportunities that ensure everyone is able to thrive there. Access to efficient, safe, and affordable transit is crucial. MST-DC is excited to work with CLC, our Land partners in the Jericho Lands, as well as with the City and community to prepare the plan for Jericho.”
The Jericho Lands master plan planning process began in March 2019, and the next planning phase of developing draft-guiding principles and site plan concepts is underway, with the first concepts expected to be revealed sometime within the first two quarters of 2020.
The highest densities and the retail component for the redevelopment is expected to be located at the northeast corner of the site, along West 4th Avenue. The master plan, which will guide future rezoning applications, will be ready for city council to review and approve in 2021.