Affordable housing has been cut from a development proposal seeking to build a pair of six-storey mixed-use buildings in Port Moody’s historic downtown area.
Fourteen units out of 184 total were initially proposed as below-market rentals for the 10-lot development on the 2400-block of Clarke Street.
During early input in January, Port Moody city staff recommended five more affordable units be included, as the application had less than half the 15 percent requirement for density bonusing.
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But the developer, Placemaker Communities, now says inflationary impacts on construction costs and rising interest rates related to project financing have made any below-market units financially unfeasible.
Staff said they are OK with the affordability loss (pending a financial analysis) due to the several other benefits associated with the project.
An amendment to the official community plan (OCP) is required to increase density. Council unanimously voted to move the application forward to a public hearing, which is slated for next fall.
“Since this project first came to us it has changed tremendously. And a lot of the input that we provided at early input, at land use (committee), has been implemented,” said Mayor Meghan Lahti.
While Coun. Haven Lurbiecki said she appreciated many of the changes made since January, she was disappointed to see it came at the expense of affordable housing.
She said a new approach is needed if the city is to meet its affordability targets, suggesting developers seek out partnerships with housing providers at an earlier stage.
“I know you can’t have it all, but you know, this is an OCP amendment. It was supposed to be three and six (storeys),” Lurbiecki said. “(The heights) were like the main engagement topic of that OCP and painstakingly decided.”
Lahti countered that the last OCP was approved in 2014, two years before the SkyTrain arrived in Port Moody.
She said while council had knowledge that rapid transit was coming, it was not yet in place and did not factor heavily into conversations.
“That says a lot,” Lahti said. “So I think that this is a reasonable request, in terms of going from three to six in this area within walking distance of SkyTrain.”
While some density has been reduced since early input, the floor area ratio is still well above what is permitted without density bonusing.
Current zoning only allows three-storey builds on the majority of the site.
For the loss of below-market units, the developer is offering a slight reduction of strata apartments (110 to 103) and a slight bump in the number of market rentals (74 to 79), air conditioning in all units, and 37 percent of the units being two or three-bedroom units.
Staff’s continued support for the 52,000 square foot project is due to the development having several other positive elements.
One of the big benefits would be the restoration and long-term protection of the P. Burns Butcher Shop, a protected heritage building which will be relocated to the northwest corner of the site, integrating it into the heritage streetscape to the west.
A heritage covenant between the developer and the city will be required.
The two-storey wood frame building was constructed in 1908, and is notable for its ‘boomtown’ or ‘false-front’ facade.
Another big positive are the potential enhancements to the Queens Street Plaza, an underutilized block at the core of Clarke Street’s commercial area since a significant fire in 2019.
Staff said that should the project proceed, a total “re-imagining and redesign” of the plaza could take place.
“The city (would) initiate a consultation on a redesign/reprogramming of the plaza works,” staff said. “Depending on timing, any reconstruction of the plaza may be able to take place at the same time as the construction of the proposed development.”
Other noted elements include the heritage elements incorporated into the architectural design, increased access through a pedestrian laneway, $300,000 for a public art piece, and employment generation through 23,280 sq. ft. of commercial space units and nine live/work units.
Many of these are design changes to better integrate the form of the P. Burns building into the larger structure.
Density was reduced to allow stepping back the top floor of the building, and parkade access and loading spaces were relocated.
The city would rake in nearly $1 million from the developer for community amenities, nearly a third of which would go towards its affordable housing reserve, according to the staff report.