First Nations plan 5,000 homes and film studio next to BCIT Burnaby

Nov 19 2021, 8:33 pm

A new proposed master plan for the redevelopment of Willingdon Lands in Burnaby shows what a modern Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh urban village will look like.

On Friday, November 19, the plans were unveiled by Musqueam Indian Band, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and Aquilini Development.

Their plan details how they will transform the development site immediately west of the BCIT campus – on the southwest corner of Willingdon Avenue and Canada Way on shared Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh territory – into a community of close to 5,000 housing units, a massive film studio, and a childcare center.

Through artwork, native plants, a medicine garden, and wayfinding signage in both hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and English – the entire design of the site will incorporate elements inspired by the nations’ culture and history.

At the heart of the development, there will be a Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh cultural centre and an outdoor hearth – a gathering place for the nations and the local community.

Willingdon Lands

Willingdon Lands Cultural Centre

“Our vision for the Willingdon Lands is to create a contemporary Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh urban village that provides a cultural experience, is interconnected with nature, and allows us to tell our stories through placemaking and design,” said Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow in a release.

“This is an opportunity for us to continue our legacy as land developers and economic forces within the modern landscape. With this project, we will continue to advance reconciliation and accommodation and create a positive legacy for future generations.”

A key component of the master plan is its connection to the lands and waters.

“The landscaping will use native plants, trees will be selected for longevity and shade, gardens will feature edible and medicinal plants and rain gardens will naturally capture stormwater,” reads the release.

The project also plans to daylight, or unbury and restore, part of Summer Creek to help bring the waterway back to its natural state.

Willingdon Lands

Willingdon Lands Street View: Willingdon Lands

“Storytelling is an integral part of Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh oral tradition and culture,” said Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Jen Thomas in a release.

“In reimagining this site, we wanted to embed storytelling into the space in ways both big and small – from the film studio, the cultural centre and the community hearth to the use of native plants, hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ placenames and educational signage.”

Willingdon Lands

Willingdon Lands Trading Plaza

The development will include 5,000 residential units that will have wide appeal.

The variety of housing forms is a direct response to the recommendations made by the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing in Burnaby, which called for the creation of sustainable and accessible communities plus an increase of affordable rental housing.

Housing types will include leasehold strata, market rental, moderate-income rental, affordable rental, and live-work units.

Willingdon Lands

Aerial Overview of Willingdon Lands

The development also includes a new planned 450,000-square-foot film studio.

It’s expected to bring over 3,000 full-time, long-term jobs to Burnaby’s film industry and once it’s operational, it could bring in $360 million annually.


Willingdon Lands

NE Aerial View of Willingdon Lands

“This project is the first of its kind in Burnaby,” said Ryan Seminoff, President of Aquilini Development.

“We are very grateful to have been invited by the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations to be a partner on this important project, which will celebrate Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh culture in Burnaby and add to the growing portfolio of Indigenous-led development projects.”

On November 23, 2021, the master plan will be presented to the City of Burnaby’s Planning and Development Committee. It will be followed by public consultations and a public hearing anticipated in the spring of 2022.

Sarah AndersonSarah Anderson

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