Almost exactly four months after the City of Burnaby launched the process to develop a new City Hall, the three potential locations have been narrowed down to one: the Civic Square site that's currently home to the Bob Prittie Metrotown Public Library.
City staff will be seeking approval of the site in a Council meeting on Monday, citing results of the public survey the City conducted that heavily favoured the site over the other options: the Bonsor Park site and the Firefighter's Public House site.
The City's public engagement for the project was held from May 31 to July 30, and the Civic Square site was identified as the top choice by 1,857 (46%) of the 4,057 respondents.
The option that received the second-most selections was actually "none of the above," which was selected by 1,349 (33%) of respondents, while the two remaining site locations were a distant third and fourth.
The Bonsor Park site was the preferred option for 457 (11%) of respondents while the Firefighter's Public House site was chosen by 394 (10%) of respondents.
(City of Burnaby)
All three locations are in fairly close proximity to one another, behind the Metropolis at Metrotown shopping mall, and the Metrotown neighbourhood was chosen by the City because it is designated as Burnaby's "downtown" in the Metrotown Downtown Plan.
The neighbourhood is anchored by the shopping mall and Metrotown Station, a transit hub that annually ranks as one of the three busiest stations in Metro Vancouver.
The Civic Square site for the new City Hall building is located directly across the street from Metrotown Station, and is the site that is the closest of the three options to Metrotown Station.
The three options for Burnaby's new City Hall building. (City of Burnaby)
The New City Hall
The Civic Square site, located at 6100 Willingdon, is currently home to the Metrotown branch of the Burnaby Public Library, as well as a large public park with numerous seating areas, water features, greenery, and points of entry on all four sides.
The site is approximately 4.4 acres and the library currently occupies most of the northwest corner of the site.
Although the design concept has not been finalized, the preliminary concept is that the new City Hall building will be located along Kingsborough Street, directly across the street from Crystal Mall. The existing library would likely be redeveloped and placed next to City Hall, while the southern half of the site would consist of the new Civic Square. (The library has recently undergone upgrades and renovations that remain ongoing, which now appear to have been for nothing.)
"The Civic Square site offers a unique ability to situate a significant civic facility within the downtown on a site that has public access on all four of its frontages," staff said in their recommendation. "No other such opportunity exists in Metrotown. This unique opportunity presents the possibility of a fully public space, especially in a scenario involving redevelopment and integration of the adjacent Bob Prittie Metrotown Library into the new civic facility."
Staff also say that the site would allow for "iconic architecture" and that building heights would not be of much concern, or out of place, due to the existing density around the area. Immediately south of the site, on the other side of Central Boulevard, is the Metrotown neighbourhood's central residential redevelopment area, with countless high-rises built in recent years and more underway.
(Burnaby Public Library)
The design concept for the Civic Square site.(City of Burnaby)
The motivation to relocate City Hall comes from the existing City Hall — on 4949 Canada Way — nearing the end of its life, after being constructed in 1955. According to the City, the existing building "lacks sustainability and inclusivity provisions" and would need significant upgrades that could cost approximately $70M. Furthermore, staff are spread out across five buildings, many of which were added later on as Burnaby grew, and the relocation would consolidate staff into a single location.
The City has yet to identify what it would do with the existing City Hall site and said that redeveloping the existing site was not an option because it would require a temporary City Hall be constructed during construction, which would balloon the cost of the project.
The selected Civic Square site would also likely include other amenities and uses, which was identified as being important by 2,604 (64%) of the survey respondents. The amenities that received the most selections were restaurant/café (1,543), meeting rooms (1,376), a cultural venue (1,220), and childcare space (1,156).
Staff note that a cultural venue may not be feasible for the site as it would likely limit the amount of space available for a public plaza, but said that "a cultural venue can be sought elsewhere in the Metrotown area, in concert with redevelopment."
The key concern many respondents have with the Civic Square site is the resulting traffic congestion, as Central Boulevard — the road that would separate Metrotown Station and the new City Hall — is already a major arterial road and quite congested.
According to staff, if the Civic Square site is approved on Monday, staff will immediately begin planning out the project from now until Q3 2024. Staff say that this first stage would "define the scope of work for the development of the new City Hall without further delay, and explore opportunities to include other desired programming components as suggested by the survey results."
Staff also emphasize the need to move fast, estimating that every month a project of this scale is delayed could result in an additional cost of at least $2M due to construction cost inflation.
The design phase would then run from Q4 2024 to 2026, with construction expected to begin in 2027 and completion anticipated for 2030.
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