Back in the 1950s, Keith Beedie heard that a large piece of property, home to the Ford Motor Co. and Kelly Douglas, could be had for a price.
“They wanted $1 million for it. I thought, ‘are they crazy?'”
He never would have dreamed back then that one day he’d own a large piece of the property, and that the company he founded, Burnaby-based Beedie Development Group, would have a hand in its transformation.
The company, which until now had mainly been known for its industrial development projects, is now run by his son Ryan Beedie and is half-owner of Station Square shopping centre through its residential development division, Beedie Living.
Along with partner Anthem Properties, the developer is launching sales this weekend of condominium units in the first of five new towers slated for the major redevelopment.
It’s the first residential highrise project for Beedie Living in Burnaby and for Ryan, it’s something of a homecoming.
His parents still live nearby in the house they built about 50 years ago and the company’s offices were down the street on Kingsway for 50 years until a recent move to Gilmore Avenue.
Ryan recalled riding his BMX bike in the neighbourhood to play video games at a gas station across the street, and working at the IGA at Old Orchard Shopping Centre a couple blocks away.
When Beedie bought the property with Anthem about eight years ago, the site was seen as a good piece of land with great tenants generating decent income. It was also a site calling out for a facelift.
“It was a great piece of property that wasn’t really living up to its potential,” Ryan said.
The first of five new towers will be built on the northeast corner of the site, where Red Robin and Boston Pizza used to be.
When completed it will be home to a 35-storey tower with 269 condo units on top of two storeys of offices and retail on the ground floor, including new spaces for Save-on-Foods and the TD Bank branch now on Kingsway.
Units in the first tower, which go on sale Saturday, range from studios of 476 to 493 square feet, at a starting price of $278,900, to two-bedroom units of 785 to 998 square feet, priced from $459,900 to $600,000.
One-bedrooms and one-bedrooms-plus-den are 596 to 652 square feet and priced from $339,900 to about $450,000.
There are also skyhomes (1,473 square feet starting at $1.1 million) and penthouses and sub-penthouses (1,227 to 1,382 square feet starting at $965,000) but most units are in the $400,000 to $500,000 range, said Greg Zayadi, Anthem’s director of residential sales and marketing.
The project will be built to a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver standard of sustainability and when all five towers are done, will include a total three acres of green roof—which helps with stormwater retention and insulation and will bring a park-like feel to views from neighbouring towers.
So far there has been great interest in the first phase, largely due to its location by the SkyTrain station and so close to offices, shopping and community facilities, said Zayadi. The prospective buyers appear to be mainly local folks who have established roots in the community, with a “very small number” of non-resident buyers.
And they’re of all ages, from seniors downsizing to first-time homebuyers and families investing in a place where grandparents or children will one day live.
While the immediate focus will be on condos in the first tower, the overall redevelopment of Station Square will be an improvement for Burnaby and anyone who shops at the mall.
The first tower is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2015. Then Save-on-Foods will move to its new 50,000-square-foot space, about half its current size but more in keeping with today’s trend in the grocery industry, said Rob Blackwell, Anthem’s senior vice-president of development.
The old Save-on location will be torn down and in its place will be a 57-storey tower with about 400 condo units, retail and offices. That will be followed by a 35-storey tower south of that, then a 48-storey highrise across the road on the south end of where the parkade currently sits, and finally a 52-storey highrise where the presentation centre is now at the corner of Kingsway and McKay.
Each phase will go through its own rezoning process at Burnaby city hall and construction of the total 12-acre project, with a total of about 1,800 homes and depending on market conditions, is expected to be completed by 2018 or 2020, said Zayadi.
All the space in between the towers will be transformed from areas dominated by a monolith of a concrete parkade to ones with green spaces and “city rooms” or outdoor living rooms with public art, fountains, and seating areas, said Blackwell.
Silver Drive, the name given to the road currently separating the retail from the parkade, will be rebuilt with paving stones, and bollards and street trees separating pedestrians from vehicle traffic instead of sidewalks. It’s been designed to evoke the urban feel of New York and Chicago, of European streets, of being “Granville Islandesque” while still having the soft features of city-room landscaping, said Blackwell.
There will be special lighting, essentially hanging from cables suspended over the street, to create a “festive European feel and atmosphere.” The strip along Silver Drive where the second and third towers will be, will become “restaurant row” where, taking a cue from Yaletown’s use of old loading bays, restaurants will feature patios about 18 inches higher than the pedestrian walkway to create interaction and activity on the street, Blackwell said.
Starting in mid-January, after the retail space is vacated (with the exception of medical and dental offices), extensive renovations will begin on existing buildings at the south end of the site, where Future Shop and Dollarama are now.
All the exterior finishes will be removed and replaced with more contemporary materials, such as metal panelling and glass, making it “more transparent and retail friendly,” Blackwell said. The former Station Square Cinemas on the second floor, which closed last month, will be turned into retail space. And another “city room” outdoor space will be built at the southeast corner, by the SkyTrain station and busloop. Essentially, the makeover will update these buildings to match with the rest of the redevelopment.
“We came up with a project, at the end of the day, everyone is going to be really proud of,” Blackwell said.
It’s been a long time coming and can’t come soon enough for some.
“Quite frankly, I thought for a while it wasn’t happening,” said Keith Beedie of the site’s redevelopment, “and now it’s happening.”