6-storey project in Port Moody’s heritage conservation area approved following strong support at public hearing

A six-storey development project passed unanimously at Port Moody council on Tuesday, following overwhelming support at a public hearing.

More than a dozen people spoke in favour of the applicant’s request for rezoning, many representing local businesses. No speakers opposed the project.

Mayor Meghan Lahti said the approval of the project will “set the stage” for more development in Port Moody’s Transit Oriented Development area and other locations in the city.

“Three years in the making, but I have to say it was worth the wait . . . I agree it is the start of something very special for Moody Centre” Lahti said. “It not only sets the stage, it sets the standard, a standard for working with the community.”

Placemaker Community’s development will construct a pair of six-storey mixed-use buildings on a 52,000 sq. ft. site on the 2400 block of Clarke Street.

Rezoning was required to increase the number of permitted storeys from three to six for one of the buildings.

The development will contain 182 units, and more than 23,000 sq. ft. of commercial space in two U-shaped buildings.

The residential unit mix consists of 103 strata condos and 79 rentals, nine of which will be live-work units.

Its location between Queen’s Street and Kyle Street is on the edge of Port Moody’s heritage conservation area, and its incorporation of heritage elements was one of the most praised aspects of the project.

A heritage covenant for the P. Burns Butcher Shop has been signed, and the 113-year old building will be relocated to the northwest corner of the site and undergo restorations.

Additionally, the development has been officially named “Mary Anne’s Place” after Mary Anne Cooper, a long-time Port Moody heritage advocate who died in 2021 at the age of 107.

Corrina Goodman, Cooper’s daughter, called the project a “wonderful memorial” to her mother.

“Everytime I hear someone tonight say ‘Mary Anne’s Place,’ I jump a little and a tear comes to my eye,” Goodman said.

Goodman said the developer has spent many hours trying to design the project as close to the heritage esthetic as possible.

Many councillors and members of the public complimented the developer’s community engagement efforts throughout the application process.

Local businesses representatives in favour of the application included speakers from Aroma Indian Restaurant, the Burrard Social House, Grit Studio, Boothill Junction, Bohemian Lifestyle, and the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce.

Coun. Diana Dilworth described the number of businesses in support of the project as “unique,” considering many will have their businesses impacted by the construction.

Another public speaker, Wilhelmina Martin, reflected back on the devastating 2019 fire on Clarke Street which destroyed several heritage buildings, including the Roe & Abernethy Grocery Store and the Gallery Bistro.

The commercial potential of the site have been underutilized since the fire, according to staff.

“Now we’re standing here as a phoenix coming up with something new, something enhancing the area,” Martin said. “What we are gaining is far more than what we’re losing.”

Martin added that some “discriminatory comments” were made about council’s supposed pro-development stance during this application process, but the amount of public support for the project proves a high level of community engagement.

Additional benefits highlighted during the hearing included revitalization of the Queen’s Street Plaza, the additional rental units being added to the city’s housing stock, and the pedestrian mews between the two buildings.

The project has undergone several changes including esthetic alterations, setbacks of the upper floors which resulted in a small density reduction, and parking access and loading spaces being relocated.

Affordable housing was also cut from the project, with developers citing inflationary impacts to construction costs and interest rates. A analysis proving the financial infeasibility of the below-market units was accepted by city staff

In return, the developer offered air conditioning in all units, and a slight increase in the number of rental units.

Coun. Callan Morrison said the project will help address the rental housing needs of the community, specifically regarding the number of two and three-bedroom units, which account for 37 percent of the total.

He added this is the first large project where no speakers opposed the project for any reason.

“When I saw the first iteration of this project, I will be honest, it left a lot to be desired esthetically, but there have been massive changes,” Morrison said. “I respect applicants and proposals who engage with our community, and take the time to understand the needs of the area in which they are building.”

Dilworth said that adding air conditioning and temperature control to all units is setting a standard for future developments in the community.

“I’m recklessly optimistic that this next evolution of this particular block in Moody Center is going to be one that turns the corner for us in terms of really enhancing and involving the neighborhood vibe,” Dilworth said.

Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch