The ‘Project of the Year’ is part of STOREYS annual week-long editorial series. You can find the rest of our 2023 BC selections here as they're released throughout the week.

Your career is what you've done and your legacy is what you leave behind. For Ryan Beedie, he thinks a big part of his legacy will be Fraser Mills, the 96-acre master-planned community along the Fraser River in Coquitlam.

"For me, it's a real legacy piece," says Beedie in an interview with STOREYS. And we agree, which is why Fraser Mills is STOREYS' BC Project of the Year.

Talking about the Fraser Mills project brings back memories for Beedie, as the project has been in the works for nearly 20 years now.

The land was formerly owned by Interfor, who then put it up for sale around 2004. Because Beedie had various industrial developments in the area, Interfor presented the opportunity to Beedie, and the two ultimately struck a deal.

"Walking the site at the time of buying it, I remember looking and going 'It's so spectacular," Beedie says. "We're primarily an industrial developer and I love industrial, but this site really belongs as a residential jewel. The light and the view — it's something quite special."

It wasn't a foregone conclusion that the site would become a residential neighbourhood, however.

"Our original intention behind purchasing it was to make it an industrial park," says Beedie. "Everything around it is industrial, so that was the thinking upon acquisition. But around that time, one of my senior executive members, Dave Gormley, suggested to me, 'Have you thought about the Fraser Mills site being residential?'"

Beedie says the thought had indeed crossed his mind, but he didn't take it seriously because he didn't think the City would consider it, since everything in the area was industrial. At the time, Beedie as a company also did not have a residential division.

Beedie says City planners were against the idea, but Council showed some interest, in large part due to Coquitlam having just a small slice of the Fraser River within its borders and not wanting to create more separation with further industrial development. Beedie ultimately got zoning approval in the late-aughts, around when they launched their residential division, Beedie Living.

Following adoption of the rezoning plan, however, Beedie realized some aspects of the plan and its design were not suitable for the setting, and the site subsequently went through multiple revisions with multiple architectural groups across multiple years.

"There were times where we went 'if it's going to be such a headache, we should just go back to industrial, right?' Beedie says. "Industrial values have shot up so significantly here, we could've been in and out of the whole thing in three years and redeployed the capital into something else. In some respects, purely economically, that may still have been the better decision, but I think — looking holistically at our company — this is an amazing opportunity to create something that's career-defining."

Fraser MillsFraser Mills, along the Fraser River.(Beedie)

The final push began in 2022, when the last iteration of the master plan was brought to Council, which granted final approval a few months later in September. Fraser Mills will now include over 5,500 homes across 16 towers ranging between heights of 29 and 49 storeys, along with ample amounts of green space and a community centre, in what will be Coquitlam's first and only waterfront residential community.

Beedie says the residential proposal for Fraser Mills 15 years ago was a bit controversial, but that much of the opposition he's seen is now gone and replaced with support from a community that's in favour of the access to the water and public amenities.

And if sales are any indication, anticipation is high for Fraser Mills.

The Debut of... Debut

After officially unveiling the master plan and branding for Fraser Mills in June, Beedie launched the first tower, the 36-storey aptly named Debut, earlier this fall. Sales began in October on the 318 units and sold out completely, with no discounting or incentives, in less than three weeks, Beedie tells STOREYS.

Fraser Mills' $10M sales centre is currently under construction, so all of the sales for Debut took place within the boardroom of Beedie's Vancouver office, with over 2,000 interested buyers passing through during a time when the real estate market is not exactly booming.

"When you have an offering, the quality of the development, the location, and who is developing it really matters more than ever," says Beedie, when asked what he takes away from the success of Debut. "The challenging environment doesn't scare us. I think people are getting in the ground floor seeing what the vision for Fraser Mills is, knowing that this is going to be an exceptional waterfront community. We priced it aggressively and fairly and we wanted to create a value proposition for them. I think everything aligned and there's a lot of energy around it."

Debut.(Courtesy of Beedie)

Debut was sold out of Beedie's office while the sales centre is being constructed.(Courtesy of Beedie)

Beedie tells STOREYS that, in response to the buzz, they will be accelerating the launch of the next tower, Encore, which will be 32 storeys with 306 units, located directly across the street from Debut. The sales centre is expected to complete construction next month, in time for when sales launch on Encore in early January.

There was a lot riding on the launch of Debut, Beedie admits, as it was the first launch for Fraser Mills, but there's also a lot riding on it for Beedie personally.

"Within seven minutes of Fraser Mills, I've got five significant family members, and this is where my wife grew up, so we have a strong family tie to it," he says. "Not only do I want to make the community happy, I want to make sure my family is happy with what we're doing and avoid any controversies or embarrassments for the family."

Beedie's father, Keith, started his career as a homebuilder in the '50s, Beedie says, and he's glad the company has now brought things full circle with their residential developments.

"[My dad] used to joke that he probably wouldn't see it in his lifetime, and he was right, but he was definitely in favour of the idea of building a little town. You're going to have 8,000, 9,000, 10,000 people living in this area, and that's pretty cool. It's going to be a significant milestone project in the history of our company and the community. This is legacy stuff. No one can take that away from you."

Beedie says he's very much looking forward to seeing Fraser Mills 15 or 20 or 25 years from now. When asked what he hopes others will see and feel when they look at Fraser Mills then, he says he hopes they'll say, "Wow, this was well thought-out, well-planned, and well-built with the long term in mind.'"

He points to their Station Square project in Burnaby, developed in partnership with Anthem Properties, just up the street from where he grew up, as an example. He says he remembers looking at the renderings of a bustling mixed-use community before it was built and hearing people wonder if it was too good to be true, but he believes that Beedie and Anthem delivered exactly what was envisioned.

"That's what we want for Fraser Mills — for it to be reflective of us as a family and our name. We love what we do. It's so future-focused. To drive into Fraser Mills now and fast-forward in your head 10 or 20 years and see all the buildings — it's wild to transform the landscape like that. Nothing gets me more excited than seeing people working and building. There's a collective energy and excitement about what Fraser Mills is going to be and I think that excitement and energy is reflected in the success of Debut."

Now it's time for an encore.

Development Projects