Squamish Nation members voted Tuesday to approve development of the Sen̓áḵw Lands next to the Burrard Street Bridge, in partnership with Westbank Corp.
The vote was overwhelmingly in favour, with 718 of 827 voting members (87%) voting in support of the land designation, and 665 of 826 voting Members (81%) voting in support of the partnership with Westbank.
The development represents the single largest development on First Nation lands in Canada.
“The Squamish Nation council is thrilled with the outcome of this referendum, which was approved by a landslide. This is truly a landmark moment in our Nation’s history. The Sen̓áḵw Project will transform the Squamish Nation by providing immense social, cultural, and economic benefits to Squamish Nation members for generations to come,” said Khelsilem, Squamish Nation councillor and spokesperson.
It will create up to 6,000 new homes, primarily purpose-built rental, with a small amount of leasehold strata condominiums and retail.
Rental housing revenues to the Squamish Nation over the 110-year lifetime of the project are estimated at between $8 to $10 billion, according to analysis by Ernst & Young LLP.
Sen̓áḵw Lands development statistics
- Highly sustainable, mixed-use project of primarily purpose-built rental housing of 3.4 million square feet, or 600 units, and some leasehold strata and retail.
- Eleven towers with heights up to 56 storeys.
- Construction anticipated to begin in 2021, and carried out over an anticipated period of 15-20 years.
- First phase will be likely be rental, with future phases determined by market conditions.
- Between 150 and 200 units will be available to Nation members at a discounted rate compared to the prevailing market price.
- Architect is Revery Architecture (formerly Bing Thom Architects)
Renderings: Sen̓áḵw Lands by Squamish Nation
- The project is proposed to be a 50/50 partnership between the Nation and developer Westbank Corp.
- The Squamish Nation would contribute the land through 120-year leases, with the land returning to the Nation after this time period.
- The Nation would have full rights to charge property taxes.
History of Sen̓áḵw Lands
The land has been part of the unceded territory of the Squamish Nation dating back to the time immemorial. It was once a seasonal fishing village, which became a permanent village in the 19th century.
The federal government established Kitsilano Indian Reserve No. 6 in 1868, and the Squamish Nation residents were later provided a small stipend and moved off the land. A decades-long court battle resulted in 10.5 acres being returned to the Squamish Nation in 2003.
The Nation says “the development of Sen̓áḵw has the potential to not only partially right this historical injustice, but also to add significant new much-needed low-carbon rental housing to the city.”
There are five goals for the development of the lands:
- City-building: a transit-oriented mixed-use project of primarily purpose-built rental for Vancouver.
- Demonstrate climate leadership on a global scale.
- Create a legacy project for the Squamish Nation that reflects its history and culture.
- Generate significant economic benefit for the Squamish Nation to allow it to meet its pressing housing, education, and social services.
- Reconciliation: an indigenous-private sector collaboration that furthers national reconciliation.
The Squamish Nation does not require planning permission from the City of Vancouver to develop the lands.
The Sen̓áḵw Lands are next to the former Molson Brewery, now owned by Concord Pacific. In 2016, the developer said it planned to transform the property into a high-tech hub, including residential. The site is still zoned industrial, so any residential development would need to be approved by the city. The former brewery building was recently listed for lease by CBRE. Molson built a new brewery in Chilliwack, which is now operational.