Port Moody will have to balance competing concerns as it moves forward with the biggest redevelopment project in its history.
Council’s willingness to make trade-offs is key to the inclusion of affordable housing in the 14.9-acre master-planned community Vancouver-based Wesgroup Properties is proposing at the corner of Ioco Road and the Barnet Highway in the city's Coronation Park neighbourhood.
But four years after Wesgroup first began discussions with the city about its vision for the site, Wesgroup senior vice-president of development Brad Jones said “it’s time to move this forward.”
On May 23, council did just that and granted first reading to zoning amendments required for the project, which will see 2,900 new homes built in six towers of up to 31 storeys, including a 101-unit rental building plus an office building, retail spaces and a 2.5-acre park.
Still to come are second reading, a public hearing, third reading and adoption.
Getting there will take some work, though, Jones said, especially if the city wants affordable housing to be included.
He told council three independent financial analyses requested by Port Moody have all concluded Wesgroup is already going above and beyond its obligations for amenity and development cost contributions, including the park, construction of a new civic space, pedestrian overpass to the Inlet Centre SkyTrain station and more than $42 million of off-site upgrades to things like roads, cycling paths and intersections.
If the city wants more, like affordable housing, it will require trade-offs, warned Jones.
“We believe there’s still choices the city can make to achieve its goals,” he said.
While some councillors said the choice was already made by the previous council when it rejected affordable homes to limit the height of the proposed towers to no more than 31 storeys, others said there’s still room to negotiate.
“I believe we will get affordable housing as part of these conversations,” said Coun. Diana Dilworth.
“We’re going to come up with a great project working in collaboration with this partner.”
But Coun. Callan Morrison worried the cost for achieving affordable housing might be too high, especially if it means compromising something like the community amenity space or pedestrian overpass.
“I’m concerned about giving up things the residents of our city need and deserve to have,” he said.
Still, said Coun. Haven Lurbeicki, Port Moody is in desperate need of more affordable housing.
“If we don’t have affordable housing, we don’t have a complete community,” she said, adding creative thinking like reduced parking requirements might be a path forward.
Jones said the company is open to all ideas.
He pointed to other Wesgroup master-planned developments like the Brewery District in New Westminster and the River District in Vancouver that changed considerably through negotiations to address community concerns once rezoning was approved, including the conversion of one tower in its New West project from strata to rental.
He said rezoning approval will also give the company certainty it needs to negotiate funding for affordable housing from agencies like the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and BC Housing.
A letter of intent sent to the city in April by Wesgroup’s Kaylen Blomkamp said the company is committed to continue the rezoning process and is ready to present options for additional density to help Port Moody achieve its affordable housing goals.
City manager Tim Savoie told council discussions between the city and Wesgroup are ongoing. But, he cautioned, any new asks from council could slow those talks.
And more time is the last thing the developer and city can afford, said Jones, adding at the current pace it will be 2028 or 2029 before the first residents can move into the new Coronation Park.
That’s not good for anyone, said Coun. Kyla Knowles.
“Enough time has been spent on outreach and open houses,” she said. “We are making future housing less affordable.”