Posted on May 09, 2012

Fraser Mills plan is changing

| Coquitlam, BC
BY John Kurucz, Coquitlam Now, May 9, 2012

One of Coquitlam's largest residential developments in recent memory is now going to resemble areas in San Francisco and Barcelona, its developer claims - after new information shows surface parking can be replaced with amenities like parks and cafés.

Original geotechnical work for the Fraser Mills site suggested most of the underground parking could only be one or 1.5 levels at most because of the high water table, a city staff report notes. However, further geotechnical work now indicates most of the structured parking on the site can be fully accommodated below grade.

Changes to the development plan were put on display at Monday's committee meeting, where council and city staff saw drawings and new concept plans that will increase public open space on the 89-acre site in south Coquitlam. The overall scope of the plan remains largely unchanged, as the development is still predicted to accommodate up to 3,700 units, 175,000 square feet of commercial space, 72,000 square feet of amenity space and more than 500,000 square feet of industrial space. What is changing, however, is the layout and esthetic of the site.

"This makes a good plan better," said Jim McIntyre, the city's manager of planning and development.

Many of the proposed changes came after the Beedie Development Group retained a new architect to work on the project. Having been a part of projects like the Woodward's and Telus building developments in Vancouver, architect Gregory Henriquez spoke to council about how shifting the onsite parking to underground lots will free up areas above ground to include more public open space.

"This is the same density, the same heights, the same things that were there before," Henriquez said. "The only real difference now is that we've added that layer of urban design. By putting the parking underground, we've really created what a real city should be."

Those new open spaces could include areas for parks, cafés or communal gathering places. Henriquez pointed to areas in Vancouver's West End, San Francisco and Barcelona as the templates.

"We're talking about small, little pocket parks where you can have a lover's quarrel or kids can throw a ball up against the wall," he said.

Previously, the plan called for a majority of those open spaces to be included in the buildings themselves.

"I really like the idea that the green space is now on the ground because the neighbours will meet neighbours," Coun. Mae Reid said. "You just won't meet the people in your apartment block. You'll get to meet everyone."

The building types are also being re-examined, as the old plan called only for woodframe buildings between three and six storeys, and larger highrises ranging from 18 to 38 storeys. However, a move to include mid-rise buildings in the range of seven to 17 storeys is now being looked at to create "a more varied and interesting building mass."

"A real city has a variety of shapes and forms that allows it to evolve over time in a master plan," Henriquez said. "Rather than seeing it all as Fraser Mills, maybe there's a way to start to envision neighbourhoods within Fraser Mills. It's a large place - maybe we can look at it with a sort of waterfront edge district, a market square district, an uptown district, even a rail town district."

The development's proximity to the Fraser River was taken into account, as a linear path and park system will stretch along the waterfront.

A two-tiered wharf is also planned, with a bandshell or other entertainment site on the top level and two ramps with direct access to the water below.

Dave Gormley, vice-president of land development with Beedie, said he's hopeful the development permit process will be completed by the fall, followed by a marketing campaign later this year.

He added that construction could start in either the first or second quarter of next year, and will likely take two years.

"We feel that the revised plan is superior to the plan we brought to council in 2008," he said.

jkurucz@thenownews.com


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