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UDI Letter in Support of the Draft Metrotown Downtown Plan

March 2, 2017

February 22, 2017

Lou Pelletier
Director, Planning and Building
City of Burnaby
4949 Canada Way
Burnaby, BC V5G 1M2

 

Dear Mr. Pelletier,

Re: Draft Metrotown Downtown Plan

The Urban Development Institute (UDI) would like to reiterate its support for the Metrotown planning process as well as the draft Metrotown Downtown Plan (MDP) that was released last November. We believe the draft Plan follows the values and goals that were established in the Preliminary Vision, Principles, and Land Use Framework that was issued last spring – values and goals that UDI also endorsed.

We are pleased that Metrotown is being upgraded to a downtown area. This makes sense given the area’s central location in the Region, as well as the access it has to rapid transit. Making Metrotown a downtown should not diminish the importance or role of Burnaby’s other Town Centres. As noted in the MDP, the intent is for the new downtown to “complement” the other three Town Centres.

Focusing Burnaby’s growth in Metrotown (and the other Town Centres) is important. Greenhouse Gas emissions will be reduced and affordability will improve as people are less likely to need automobiles to reach their destinations as other forms of transportation become more viable. As well, new housing in Metrotown will be multi-family, which is more energy efficient and less expensive than single-family homes.

Future Metrotown residents will be more active and healthy as the proposed land use mix, street layout, urban design, park space and amenity package will offer residents, workers and visitors a vibrant and pedestrian-oriented urban core. Additionally, as highlighted in the November 16, 2016 Report to Council, UDI recognizes that increased density in Town Centres has maintained school enrollment. This will be furthered by the implementation of the MDP.

UDI has a few suggestions regarding the MDP. Burnaby may wish to consider more flexibility with regard to floorplate sizes by managing them in guidelines, instead of regulating them to maximum of 8,100 square feet. Variations in floorplates will be needed depending on the size of towers, because larger towers need larger cores and therefore the tower’s efficiency needs to be considered. In addition, sustainability is an objective in the draft Plan. Larger floorplates can be more energy efficient than smaller ones. A similar approach should be considered for balconies. While balconies have architectural merit, they can also generate thermal bridging issues, which undermine energy efficiency. Both issues are particularly important because improving building envelopes will be the focus in the upcoming Energy Step Code and future amendments to the B.C. Building Code.

The City may also need to be flexible with regard to streets. Strong arguments are made in the MDP for the need for complete streets. However, in other jurisdictions we have found that complete streets can be very wide. In some cases, they may undermine the City’s urban design objectives. It is noted in Section 9.2 of the draft Plan that “…streets, and other public spaces should be scaled for human comfort and activity at the street level to create an engaging downtown.”

Another issue that may be better placed in a guideline is the amount of required office space. In the proposed MDP, there is a requirement to fully replace all lost office space in redevelopment projects. We ask that the City consider this as a guideline and not a mandated policy because the location and the amount of office built in the past may not be suitable for current conditions.

Finally, we are pleased that the City is still being forward-thinking in terms of on-street parking regulations. We believe that continuing and enhancing on-street parking regulations will assist the City in reducing automobile reliance and reduce the need for off-street parking. This is demonstrated in the Plan’s Transportation Demand Management strategies, which reduce parking requirements for developments in close proximity to transit stations. Jurisdictions that have weak on-street parking regulations have found that there is still an over reliance on private vehicles, persistent parking problems, and excessive and expensive off-street parking requirements.

We would like to thank staff again for involving UDI in the consultation process. UDI strongly endorses the draft Metrotown Downtown Plan, and we look forward to working with the City as it moves forward.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Anne McMullin
President and CEO

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