JASON PAYNE / PNG
Bosa Development is going ahead with a multi-tower residential and commercial project in downtown New Westminster on what is being described as one of the best tracts of undeveloped waterfront real estate in the Lower Mainland.
Vancouver-based Bosa Development bought the 1.6-hectare plot at 660 Quayside Drive in New West from owner Larco Investments earlier this year and took possession in April. The site is between Westminster Pier Park and the Fraser River Discovery Centre.
The site is home to an empty parking lot, said Richard Weir, vice-president, real estate and development with Bosa Development.
“It’s an exceptional site,” he said in an interview last week. “It’s probably the finest undeveloped waterfront property in the Lower Mainland.”
The city completed a rezoning of the property in 2014 in order to establish a new master plan for the site, according to city documents.
Larco and the city worked together to create a concept that would allow for more open space and views of the Fraser River and an extension of the waterfront esplanade. The plan also required that half the property would be set aside to expand Westminster Pier Park.
The rezoning permitted for three residential towers ranging in size from 28 to 45 storeys (reduced from five towers in earlier zoning) and allowed for a mix of land uses including residential, commercial, child care, and the provision for a 150-room hotel.
Bosa is considering whether to build two or three condo towers on the site, Weir said. “There will also be a stand-alone building for a restaurant and a daycare facility,” he said.
“The architecture is going to be landmark. The views are going to be unobstructed and we’re going to have an incredible restaurant and retail opportunity with a waterfront patio,” he said. “We’re already getting interest from some of the high-profile restaurant operators. The project is going to be very exciting, but we’re going to stay within the density envelope that was approved in 2014.”
He said they would “absolutely” be using the existing zoning, which was negotiated between the city and Larco. “All of the public improvements that were negotiated as part of that rezoning will be provided,” he said, listing the park, esplanade, plaza and public parking components.
Weir said there are no longer plans to build a hotel.
“We consider this to be probably the finest undeveloped waterfront site in the Lower Mainland so we’re just going to design and build a project reflecting that calibre,” he said.
He said the project would likely be rolled out in two phases. “We’re working with New West now on our plan and we’ll be submitting development permit applications as soon as possible and we hope to be in a position to bring this project to market within the next 12 months.”
Weir said New West has been “coming into its own” over the last several years. “They’ve done some really good public infrastructure work … and the improvements to Front Street are just an absolute game changer,” he said.
Larco Investments did not respond to calls requesting comment on the sale.
All of the core elements of the master plan that was developed by the city with Larco are expected to remain in place with Bosa’s development, said New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté.
“We have a new owner of the property, a new developer, so we’re open to having conversations about some of the more specific details of the development, but definitely the core principles and the amenities, and the underground parking, we’re still expecting to remain in the new development,” he said last week.
“I know there is another level of detailed planning and design that has to happen with the architects for the project, and there has been conversations with the city, but nothing formal has yet been presented to city council,” he said.
Coté said this section of Quayside Drive is central to the city’s vision of fully developing the waterfront. “Essentially, this piece of property is kind of the missing link on our waterfront,” he said. “It’s located right in front of downtown New Westminster … and it’s just an empty asphalt parking lot now that’s been under-utilized for probably 40-plus years.”
He said a key element from the city’s perspective is the expansion of the park. “A significant portion of the site is slated to be given back to the city for the expansion of waterfront park and there will be a greenway along the waterfront the entire way.”
He said the development would make the park and greenway more enticing for residents and visitors. “Right now it’s not the most inviting property.”
The residential towers at the site would be among the largest in the city, Coté said.
“We definitely want to make sure they make the right kind of urban statement down on our waterfront,” he said. “This is the prized location in the city of New Westminster. We’re only going to get one shot to do this and we want to make sure we’re doing it right.”