Metrotown came first. Then came Brentwood and Lougheed. Right now, it's Bainbridge. Royal Oak may very well be next.

The City of Burnaby is in the process of establishing a new community plan for Royal Oak, officially called the Royal Oak Urban Village Community Plan, which will outline the future for the neighbourhood, and there's good reason to believe that the area is ripe for redevelopment.

Royal Oak spans approximately 554 acres and is home to roughly 6% of Burnaby's population (as of 2021), according to the City. The lion's share of the neighbourhood (43%) is comprised of single-detached homes, with the remainder divided between industrial lands (19%), mixed-use and multi-residential use (16%), schools and parks (12%), and commercial use (9%).

Royal Oak is not only located near the centre of Burnaby -- leading into the Metrotown neighbourhood that the City has designated as its downtown core -- but Burnaby is also at the centre of the Metro Vancouver region, putting Royal Oak in a prime location that is accessible from almost any other municipality via multiple modes of transportation.

Royal Oak Urban Village Community Plan AreaThe Royal Oak Urban Village Community Plan area. (City of Burnaby)

Burnaby is located on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hnqminm and Swx w7mesh speaking peoples. What is now known as Kingsway was originally constructed in 1860, roughly following the route of an Indigenous trail, and now serves as one of Metro Vancouver's major arterial roads, running all the way from New Westminster, through Burnaby, and deep into Vancouver.

Many of Burnaby's neighbourhoods along Kingsway have already seen mass development.

In Edmonds -- where the City is also in the process of establishing a new community plan -- a five-tower master plan community is being developed by the City alongside BC Housing at the intersection of Kingsway and Edmonds Street, with a rezoning application expected to be submitted in 2024.

In Metrotown, Concord Pacific's multi-phase Concord Metrotown project at the intersection of Kingsway and Nelson Avenue is currently amidst construction. It's just steps away from the upcoming 66-storey Citizen skyscraper by Anthem Properties, also on Kingsway, which is itself steps away from the multi-tower Station Square project by Anthem and Beedie that completed last year, at the intersection of Kingsway and McKay Avenue.

Further west, PC Urban is also currently in the process of developing their multi-tower Central Park Commons project around the Telus "Boot" building on Kingsway near the Burnaby-Vancouver border, and into Vancouver, the Norquay Village neighbourhood is now in the second half of its redevelopment cycle, with a handful of mid-rise buildings built -- or set to be built -- along Kingsway.

This makes Royal Oak one of the last remaining stretches of Kingsway that has largely been untouched by redevelopment, and there are strong indications that Royal Oak's stretch will follow suit.

Although the establishment of the community plan is currently in its infancy, the City says that one of its objectives is to establish Kingsway -- along with Royal Oak Avenue and Imperial Street -- as "vibrant commercial corridors," with higher-density residential development identified for the area immediately surrounding Royal Oak Station -- on Beresford Street --and the Royal Oak Avenue and Kingsway intersection.

Royal Oak Urban Village Community Plan Preliminary Land UseThe preliminary land use framework for Royal Oak. (City of Burnaby)

Aside from the central location, the existing makeup of the neighbourhood is another reason why the area will likely catch the eye of developers.

The eastern edge of the plan area begins at Gilley Avenue, and the stretch of Kingsway from there all the way to MacPherson Avenue -- about midway through the plan area -- consists almost exclusively of car dealership lots, gas stations, and various aging single-storey commercial buildings, all of which have become prime fodder for redevelopment.

Currently, rezoning applications exist for 5900 Kingsway, a small shopping square, and 5318 and 5292 Kingsway, a large car wash. The prime piece of land, perhaps the most so in the entire plan area, is 5235 Kingsway at the intersection of Royal Oak Avenue, a sprawling lot formerly home to a Safeway that has since been demolished, as well as a large surface parking lot. Although the City did not specify this particular site, the City does note a vision for "a signature building up to 30 storeys at the strategic intersection of Royal Oak Avenue and Kingsway."

Away from Kingsway, rezoning applications also exist for various other properties, including 6660 and 6692 Royal Oak, a car-servicing facility; 7118 and 7280 MacPherson Avenue, a small industrial building; 5650 Beresford, a vacant lot; and more, most of which has not progressed in some time but could pick up once the community plan is established.

Another objective the City has identified is "expanding the range of housing, commercial, and creative employment options" in the Royal Oak area. That would entail "incremental development of creative employment uses south of Kingsway between MacPherson and Gilley," "ground-level retail, non-profit, and commercial uses in key locations such as near the Royal Oak SkyTrain station and along Kingsway," and a "local retail and service commercial base so basic everyday needs for area residents (e.g. groceries, banks personal services, cafes, pharmacies, etc.) are within walking distance."

Transit-oriented development has also been identified for the area immediately surrounding Royal Oak Station, which the City hopes will come to consist of "a network of integrated 'third places' (parks, places of worship, cafes, bookstores, etc.) outside of homes and workplaces that intrigue people of diverse cultural backgrounds, income levels, and demographics," with the City envisioning buildings up to 20 storeys adjacent to the station.

READ: How Housing Trends In Burnaby Have Changed Since 1996

The City is currently in the first phase of establishing the community plan and is taking public input on the preliminary vision until July 31. The City will then use that feedback to establish the direction of the community plan by early 2024, draft the full plan by next summer, before presenting the final plan to Council for approval in fall 2024.

Interest in the area amongst the development industry is already increasing. In an annual report published in June, the Urban Development Institute noted that they will be involved in consultations for the Royal Oak community plan. Also in June, some residents in the area received letters from Colliers, the commercial real estate brokerage, about potentially selling their homes for redevelopment, according to a letter seen by STOREYS.

All of this is to say: redevelopment of the Royal Oak neighbourhood of Burnaby is no longer a matter of "if," but only a matter of "when."