6-storey development could be coming to Port Moody’s heritage conservation area

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The six-storey development would require the relocation of a heritage building to the northwest corner of the site. image supplied

A developer is aiming to renovate a portion of Port Moody’s historic downtown with a pair of six-storey mixed-use buildings.

The applicant presented to city council on Jan. 10 to receive early input on their plans, which would consolidate 10 lots on the 2400 block of Clarke Street.

“I really like where we’re going with this plan. I love the nod to heritage,” said Coun. Diana Dilworth. “That’s why I’m supporting this moving forward.

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“I’ve seen a number of proposals that have come forward with promises of heritage look and feel. And at the end of the day … they don’t live up to that commitment.”

The 52,000 square-foot site is within the city’s heritage conservation area and heritage commercial district. 

The developer is seeking an amendment to the Official Community Plan (OCP), as current zoning restricts approximately half of the site to only three storeys in height. 

A total of 177 residential units are proposed (including 13 live-work units), along with 47 commercial spaces amounting to over 24,000 square feet.

Sixty market rentals are being offered (34 percent of the units), along with 14 subsidized rentals (8 percent) with the rates yet to be determined.

The number and type of residential units proposed for the development. image supplied

The city’s affordable housing policy recommends 15 percent below market rental, according to staff. Taking into account the number of rental units, they advised asking for an increase of five more below-market units.

A heritage revitalization agreement is being sought with the city, as the developer has proposed relocating one protected heritage building – the former P. Burns Butcher Shop – to the northwest corner of the site.

Staff noted that most of the block is currently vacant or underutilized, as a significant fire destroyed another heritage building in 2019.

Current businesses within the subject site are Port Moody’s iconic shoe repair store crowned by a giant boot, a coffee shop (the heritage building), an art studio, craft shop and a restaurant.

The design contains a pedestrian laneway between the two buildings, and two levels of underground parking with 252 parking stalls.

The city’s advisory design panel has endorsed the project subject to a number of requests, which include green roofs, more plants and trees, increased sidewalk width, active cooling, and a public art installation.

However, the land use committee deemed the project inappropriate due to a deficient amount of commercial floor space, parking and loading, servicing space and business amenities.

Staff’s initial analysis stated key considerations need to be made around heritage preservation, and the building density, height and massing being proposed due the site’s location.

Hesam Deihimi, owner of Milori Homes, said the company has conducted extensive community engagement over the past two years.

He said they’ve doubled the number of live-work units as a result, increased the amount of commercial space, dedicated 15 percent of the site to a pedestrian walkway, and added air conditioning to the rental units.

The heritage building would be relocated to a more prominent location on the site, according to Deihimi. 

He added the building would be named after Mary Anne Cooper, a prominent advocate for the heritage preservation in Port Moody, who died in late 2021.

The design is meant to complement the heritage aspect of the area through colour materials and varied rooflines, according to Joey Stevens with GBL Architects.

“Some of the stepping and all of these elements are meant to not overpower the P. Burns building – because it’s only a two-storey building – but still relate to it and harmonize with it,” Stevens said.

The former P. Burns Butcher Shop is a protected heritage building in Port Moody. Google Maps image.

Council comments

Dilworth, although very supportive of the proposal, had some concerns over the terracing of the building. 

She said when combined with the building to the east, they have created a “tunnel effect on Spring Street, suggesting the develop look at stepping back the upper floors in their designs.

Dilworth added that while the density may be a little high, it’s balanced out with the heritage preservation aspect.

Two members of council – Coun. Haven Lurbiecki and Coun. Callan Morrison – questioned an OCP amendment allowing a six-storey build in the area.

Lurbiecki said she didn’t see anything in the proposal to justify the increase in density to the western portion of the site.

“This is a critical area of our city where we want to be preserving that heritage character,” Lurbiecki said. “What are we getting for that extra density?”

She noted that the developer is only offering seven percent of the total units at below market rates.

Lurbiecki also said she was concerned the developer reached out to independent members of committees during its public engagement process.

She said it’s not appropriate to meet with members, or councillors, outside designated public meetings.

Morrison said he was a hesitant about the density on the western portion of the site, as it’s the primary area in the city where heritage buildings are located. 

He said he wants the design to incorporate more heritage elements going forward.

“If we are going to do this, I want to see even more of a heritage feel,” Morrison said. “So that the entire block feels longer than 200 metres of heritage buildings, before going straight into modern building style designs.”

Morrison also criticized the size of the live-work units, some of which he noted are under 700 square feet.

Addressing concerns around density, Deihimi said he usually dislikes seeing “big blocks of buildings,” but said that it works here.

He added the western edge of the development is dedicated purpose-built rental, and with interest rates and construction costs, many similar developments are being shelved. 

The strata and commercial units are subsidizing the rental units, according to Deihimi.

Mayor Meghan Lahti acknowledged the development does not conform to the OCP and said she initially had the same concerns around an amendment for increased development.

However, she said the city needs more purpose-built rental units.

“My first instinct was to feel similarly,” Lahti said. “On that west side, I think that we should be looking at this more favorably, because it is providing something that we need.”

Lahti said that while she likes the nod to heritage in the design, she wasn’t very concerned about re-creating heritage elements as she likes the modern look.

She disagreed with Lurbiecki’s comments around the developers reaching out and speaking to committee members independently, adding that she doesn’t think it’s a problem.

“There is nothing wrong with approaching people in this community who are on committees. That’s what I would expect you to do,” Lahti said. “So I’m not quite sure what the comments about that were regarding.”

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