Coquitlam council approves density swap in bid to add seniors housing

The City of Coquitlam put the application forward and Coquitlam council approved it – possibly facilitating a big sale, a long lease, and new seniors housing next to a highrise, following a unanimous vote on Monday.

Located between Austin and Rochester avenues, the two Sydney Avenue projects hinged on a density swap that would essentially put the market residential density on one site and the rental/non-market density on the other site. That trade could allow for a 289-unit highrise at 560 Sydney Avenue and an approximately 89-unit, six-storey building dedicated to seniors housing on four lots between 594 and 602 Sydney.

The City of Coquitlam would retain ownership of the seniors housing site, possibly signing a long-term land lease with a non-profit provider that would oversee operations.

However, subject to council approval, the property at 560 Sydney could be sold to a developer who would be required to apply for a subdivision and development permit.

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If approved, the developer could potentially build a highrise of 100 percent market condos, according to a city staff report.

The problem with parking

Both items passed unanimously. However, there was a brief discussion over whether it was possible to build more than 89 units of seniors housing.

While there are typically building constraints caused by the high costs of adding underground parking, Coun. Dennis Marsden suggested parking should be a secondary concern.

“Let’s ensure that the limitations are primarily focused on the overall density as opposed to how you park it,” Marsden said. “This is non-market housing. We need to make sure we make it happen.”

Brief history

In 1969, the city donated land at 560 Sydney Avenue to the Burquitlam Senior Housing Society to build the Burqultlam Lions Care Centre, which functioned as an assisted living centre until 2016.

After Fraser Health withdrew funding for the BLCC, the property ownership reverted back to Coquitlam. The city subsequently committed to replacing the seniors housing with the land at 594, 596, 600 and 602 Sydney Avenue picked as “the most feasible development site,” according to a city staff report.

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