I asked below whether Brentwood Town Centre was the largest single project ever seen in Burnaby. Should have checked my e-mail to see that this just came in, via Vancity Buzz:



A master-planned community called Concord Brentwood is the latest development from Concord Pacific Developments Inc., renowned for its skyline-defining communities on Vancouver’s False Creek and Toronto’s lakefront.

Concord Brentwood will create a bustling community according to Concord Pacific senior vice president Matt Meehan. “Our next project in Burnaby, Concord Brentwood, will see 26 acres in the Brentwood neighbourhood transform into a beautiful and diverse mixed-use park-side community that completes the exciting revitalization of the Brentwood Town Centre neighbourhood.” …

Designed by award-winning architect James K.M. Cheng of Vancouver, Concord Brentwood will consist of 10 towers, most between 40 and 45 storeys tall. Tower 1 of Phase 1 will consist of 426 units on 45 storeys.

I don’t know if this a rendering of the massing for the proposal or the final product.  But if the latter, the architecture looks pretty blah.  I still have no explanation for why in this region there is such a reluctance to use colour, why the palette seems so constrained – off-white or gray, beige and green glass.


    1. Probably you’re right.

      Has anyone done any calculations as to the capacity limitations of the Skytrain and Canada Line? Differing Cities are all piling on more and more density right next to them on the assumption that the lines will take it. Is there a gatekeeper about? Based on past performance I’m not sure we can count on Translink to assume that function.

      1. There could be upgrades to the Expo line, or relief lines built. Letting short term transit capacity dictate development is letting the tail wag the dog.

        One very simple method for increasing the capacity of Expo is to widen the trains. The stations all have knockout platforms which can be removed to allow much wider trains. This just necessitates replacing a substantial portion of the fleet in one quick go or in a line by line stagger.

        A much more desirable solution is to have a second E-W line exiting downtown. My T line idea running down Hastings would relieve Expo line congestion from Commercial west and add redundant service to downtown.

        In the nearer term, we just need to keep running the newer rolling stock during peak times.

        1. Is it actually possible to widen the cars? If so, by how much? My information which is not current, is that these systems are designed to handle small, medium and large capacities, and they aren’t that easily upgraded. Vancouver’s systems are at the small end of this scale.

          It’s not who’s wagging who, it’s important that a cities transportation capabilities are in sync with its population live, work, play densities.

          Hastings is an obvious route, however, I am concerned about the seemingly endless addition of density along the existing lines. Vancouver, Richmond and South Surrey are adding density along the Canada Line, and Surrey, New West, Burnaby and Vancouver are doing the same along the other lines, which both converge at Broadway and Commercial, where Vision wanted to dump a forest of towers. Shouldn’t there be a public discussion with factual information about where this is all going to take us?

        2. Ken Denik just reminded me that Skytrain car widths are limited because of the narrow Dunsmuir tunnel.

  1. What developer marketing person thought it was a good idea to mention Yaletown in the context of Burnaby Brentwood? The irony.

    1. I suspect it’s a way of signalling a target market. Proximity to downtown is clearly a big part of the reason for the area’s rise. My impression is that the condo population here tends to be young professionals, a profile not unlike Yaletown’s. I doubt that the comparison hurts: prospective buyers will compare with places they can actually afford. It’s irrelevant if Brentwood cannot measure up; what matters is that they identify with the lifestyle values it advertises.

      1. The lifestyle value is the 10min SkyTrain ride to downtown Vancouver. I believe the condos in the tower with an elevator down to the SkyTrain station sold out in a few days. It’s possible to live in Burnaby, and yet not really live in Burnaby but in an air space connected by train to Vancouver.

        This is not to say Brentwood could not be an attractive place. Naturally it seems very nice, it it wasn’t for all the buildings and roads, and traffic everywhere.

    2. Most people just find it cheesy to do so (since it’ s not a historic warehouse district).
      It’s was also a stretch for the real estate agents to call Downtown South the “New Yaletown” and to call the Concord Pacific lands “Yaletown”.
      That seems to be beyond the understanding on the marketing people.

    3. I dunno, the red Dragonwood warehouses on the site right now look pretty old…

      I agree it’s cheesy, but it’s advertising: what can you do?

    4. I suppose the slogan “Yaletown for those not successful enough to afford the real thing” wasn’t as catchy.

    5. My understanding is that the SkyTrain system is running 1/3rd below capacity on average due to a shortage of trains. The automated driverless technology has the ability to increase frequency safely without expensive modifications to carriages and stations. Paris, London, Toronto and Montreal are all adopting automation specifically to increase capacity this way.

      The Canada Line is run by a private company that was able to rook the public through province-inspired P3 contracts into paying extra to add more trains at rush hours and increase frequency beyond one train every 3 minutes. That’s a shame. In my view the feds should research the long-term ramifications of buying out the private contract and purchasing more trains as part of its national transit initiative. Last time I timed them, there were four 6-car trains every 5 minutes in both directions at Burrard Station at rush hour on the SkyTrain system. The Canada Line is pathetic by comparison.

      1. Note that the Canada Line contract isn’t inflexible.

        An additional train from Richmond-Brighouse was added in 2014 in response to demand:

        Another factor is the YVR requirement for half the trains. That actually benefits Bridgeport transferees, since YVR trains arrive there largely empty.

        If we had a driver-driven LRT system, we might be looking at 15 minute frequencies.

  2. It just goes to show you that you don’t need good marketing, interesting architecture, decent floor plans or a sense of place to sell RE in Vancouver. All you need is fear that people are going to get priced out forever, and you’ll sell whatever you build.

    I had a good laugh at the advertisements I saw walking through the airport citing Concord’s record of “stunning architecture”. Comparing their Arc condo to the Arc de Triomphe? Perhaps grey spandrel glass is the 21st century’s equivalent of gold leaf friezes.

    1. At least the dark gray spandrel on Concord’s One Pacific is a change from the light blue or green that seems to be cheapest / most prevalent on current towers.

      Unfortunately, the Urban Design Panel is on record as calling One Pacific “overly dark” in its review of The Arc – so you may end up with the generic light coloured spandrel on The Arc (and having the twin gateway towers, One Pacific and The Arc end up being mismatched):

      Panel’s Consensus on Key Aspects Needing Improvement:
      – Reconsider colour palette – especially in conjunction with overly dark neighbour (One Pacific)


      [i.e. the Urban Design Panel can also stifle design, since it’s design by committee.]

  3. Yes, blah indeed, but typical of the “award winning architect”. Lack of variety in tower heights are also of concern. If they want to replicate Yaletown/False Creek North they’d best go back to the beginning and do effective pedestrian scaled bases before plopping towers on top.

    1. I agree that the bigger issue is what the ground-level streetscape is like.

      Also, I thought there was supposed to be a pedestrian & bicycle bridge over the tracks somewhere (maybe in this development, maybe farther west) so that residents could walk to Costco. I don’t see it in the picture. I hope it doesn’t get left out. From personal experience, I can say that walking up Willingdon is not fun, and the alternative along Still Creek is really circuitous.

  4. It’s gratifying to see others commenting on the idiocy of uttering Yaletown and Brentwood in the same breath.

    You’ll notice that Wesgroup aims to make the River District the next Yaletown. Truthfully, it should be called Muddy Waters – if he doesn’t sue. What a dismal hole – actually you can’t really dig a hole there because it’ll be below the waterline. It’s a perpetually noisy characterless morass – a developer’s dream. There will be lots of turnover.

    Another joker talked of turning Whalley into the Yaletown of Surrey. Hah! Wacky Whalley competing with Woodwards to be like Yaletown – that’s rich.

    How many marketers have spewed this nonsense. More to the point – how many home horny suckers lapped it up.

  5. There is one similarity between Brentwood and Yaletown, and every other future megaproject that is slated to break ground near a transit hub in the next 10 years. They were once underutilized real estate, soon to see a new crop of density boosting towers, which will of course, max out the existing transit capacity faster than anticipated. It will happen here, and it will happen at every other station that has similar plans. And of course, many stations have similar plans. For example, Wesgroup is adding more density to Sapperton Skytrain station with Brewery District towers on the way. A future development for Braid Station, also by Wesgroup, could beat the development site Sapperton Green to the punch, with plans afoot for 100 Braid Street. I don’t forsee things subsiding, even with transit upgrades. Whalley is indeed an up and coming Yaletown (start calling it SouthEast Yaletown), if all that is required is a new forest of towers (they are being built as we speak). While it may be true these new ‘comprehensive development schemes’ lack character (old warehouses) and identity of place (meaningful historical markers, community spaces, ie: Roundhouses), you can always count on a tastefully designed greenspace, and a Starbucks located nearby to add some street level charm, right? The only way I can foresee this scale of growth balancing with our current transit infrastructure is if everyone is able to walk to work. Period. Otherwise, I expect we’ll require a completely new class of Community Amenity Contributions that pipes money directly into Translink’s capacity building.

    1. Thank you jmv, you’ve partially validated my assertion above. Does anyone know of any comprehensive assessment of Metro’s present and future transit capabilities vs. the added demand that will result from the developments you’ve noted as well as the references I mentioned?

    2. Except for Surrey central, all these developments are on the millenium line, which is no where near at capacity.

      1. Excellent point. But the Evergreen Line will feed trains onto the M-Line, and one could expect a bit of a bump from the Network Effect.

        1. The only point in the system nearing capacity is Downtown to Commercial. After the next round of expansion, I think a second E-W line downtown is an eventuality.

          If you look at CoV’s plans for the north end of Commercial Drive, there’s a few references for RT fairly frequently.

        2. All the more reason to extend the EL eastward from Waterfront Station, eh?

          A prof at the SFU Burnaby campus once told me that the first rapid transit route was originally proposed for the Hastings corridor. I wonder if that will ever be resurrected?

    3. “There is one similarity between Brentwood and Yaletown …”

      One? Only one? That it’s big? A megaproject? That’s like saying the Earth is like Saturn because they’re both planets.

      To say that “Whalley is indeed an up and coming Yaletown (Start calling it SouthEast Yaletown)” is silly – no one will ever call Wacky Whalley “SouthEast Yaletown” – not SouthEast; WestCoast; Surryified, or anything similar. Try UptheKGB Yaletown – that might get some traction.

      Jmv writes that there’s no character – no historical identity – so true. There’s also no False Creek, ergo no Dragon Boat Festival, Aquabus, or Granville Island. There is a good library. That does not a Yaletown make.

      No tourist will ever go to Whalley. Ever. To say that a developer designed greenspace and a Starbucks will provide charm is nonsense. The developers’ obligatory “community amenity” will be populated by smokers and dog owners sucking on their Starbucks. Charming.

      1. That sounds a bit pessimistic. Give it time. Tourists visit cities like Bellevue fairly frequently. There is a lot of room for improvement in Whalley. Who knows, maybe SFU’s next expansion could include an interesting museum or a theatre.

      2. There is lots to criticize about these instant tower clusters and their cheezy marketing (at least they’re not appropriating acronyms and place names from Manhattan or London). My biggest concern is the lack of quality urban design, especially at the street level, and pedestrian connectivity to adjacent neighbourhoods. These are the big issues that have created a vacuum.

        Perhaps the most important dynamic at work here is on the economic front. These high-density transit nodes build a nucleus of population density that has a natural gravitational pull on amenities and services. There was a time when Yaletown was a filthy, polluted rail industrial landscape that evolved with the city into completely different entity over a century. The bland town centre developments will evolve too.

        Quality urban design and architecture aside, the significant achievements here are the roaring success of the intentions of the original Livable Regions Strategic Plan, the now demonstrably powerful counterpoint of efficient and frequent rapid transit over cars in cities, the massive increase in housing supply in a form that remains less subject to the price escalations of detached homes, and the fact that rapid transit here remains one of the most remarkable, continuous, low-emission economic stimulation initiatives ever seen with a built-in operational cost recovery capacity and a building ridership that is phenomenal (52% on the Expo Line).

        Still, it’s too bad the real communities need to emerge once the developers and their legions of cheap suited “Vice Presidents of Development” have gone.

        1. Even with all the high rises already built, Brentwood is a terrible place for walking around. Biking is even worse. Where did all the money from the developments go? Towards putting benches along Lougheed Highway? The sad thing is people actually sit on the Lougheed benches because there is nothing else in Brentwood. The only nice place is the mall if you don’t mind being indoors.

          1. Malls want you in there, not outside enjoying nature where you don’t buy anything. That lesson was learned with Pacific Centre, but it seems to have been forgotten.

        2. The City of Burnaby seems to be doing its best to keep the mall the nicest place in Brentwood. The rest is traffic, noise and concrete.

      3. There are those who will point to the construction-related emissions of concrete towers and use it to promote low rise as the only building form worthy of promotion from an environmental standpoint.

        What this ignores, of course, is the lifespan operations-related emissions. Whether one is biased against high rise development or not is irrelevant when calculating GHG emissions over several decades that clearly indicate far lower per capita emissions in transit-rich high rise communities than a sprawling community of an equal number of people in the suburbs where automobile dependence is much higher, and where there is a far more massive volume of interior air to heat and cool per person.

        One can legitimately argue that low rises on arterials with good transit also have lower emissions. But emissions can also be perceived much like the high cost of land we now have in Vancouver. The more it is divided into smaller units, the less per capita one will spend or emit.

        This is why it’s not necessarily helpful for some urbanists to push one formulaic, paint by numbers urban design form over others. Beneficial forms of urban design have great economic and environmental value that outweigh the low density exburbs, some clearly more than others, and, like transit, we need a plethora of solutions to properly address the wide variations of need commonly experienced in our cities.

    4. The concern about transit capacity seems to assume that everyone will take the train all the way to downtown Vancouver. What if all of these transit hubs provided enough jobs to shorten most commutes? Maybe a lot of people could walk to jobs within the neighbourhood. But maybe a lot more would take the train only 3 or 4 stops, freeing up capacity elsewhere.
      The real key is to reach a critical mass of employment synergy at these hubs that makes further employment desirable.
      I like the idea that each might evolve in their own way by the fact they might serve a localized demographic. Unfortunately the first phases seem to be pretty formula.

      1. I share your concern about inadequate urban design, including over emphasis of density and height, a lack of street scale, built form that reinforces eyes on the street, distance between towers and privacy concerns. Ever smaller unit sizes are also reducing liveability.

        You’re right, the regional and City of Vancouver, as well as some suburban urban design, has been quite good until 2006. However, what we’re seeing in Vancouver and in projects such as this Burnaby scheme have abandoned most of those ‘good things’. Time will only go so far in filling the gaps you referenced. Some flaws are irreparable.

  6. The concerns over transit capacity is a bit of a red herring. The Canada line is designed to carry 3x more pax than actually. The expo line can handle ~2x more pax than actually, while the M line works at least than 1/3 of its capacity.

    If transit capacity is an issue, it is essentially west of VCC. Similarly, the Brentwood development will call for a rapid transit like (BRT or LRT) connection between Brentwood and Metrotown, spreading the load and making transit more attractive, so relieving pressure on the road system…since if there is a capacity issue, it is essentially with the road system, not the transit one.

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