Burnaby hopes to boost Sixth St. community's fortunes

In the 21 years since John Chow first opened Amorosa Pasta House at the corner of Edmonds and Sixth streets he's seen a lot of change—for the worse.

"A lot of businesses moved out, the building across the street used to be a medical building," Chow said, but not so for the past 15 years. "Now it's not even full."

The loss of the lunch crowd is a concern but so is the fact there's little pedestrian traffic.

"It would be nice to make the area busier. Nighttime is pretty dead in the area."

It's perhaps no surprise that Chow, for one, is supportive of changes to the Sixth Street Community Plan being proposed by Burnaby city hall.

The plan was first adopted by council in 1982 and covers the area bounded by Edmonds, Canada Way, Sixth and Wedgewood Street.

The current plan calls for the addition of 288 residential units and 730,000 square feet of commercial space. In contrast, the proposed amendments would plan for an estimated 1,500 housing units and 620,000 square feet of commercial.

Currently much of the commercial space in that area on Edmonds and on Sixth, between Edmonds and Graham Avenue, is zoned C4 "which is most often associated with auto-oriented commercial uses" and those which need large areas for storage and operations, said a city staff report. "Specifically, the C4 District does not permit general retail uses."

The proposal would designate that stretch of Edmonds as a "village street" characterized by four-storey buildings with retail, restaurants and pedestrian-oriented commercial spaces at ground level and apartments above.

The change would also create a neighbourhood commercial hub focusing local businesses on Sixth between 16th and 14th avenues to serve the daily needs of area residents within walking distance. The plan would encourage development of one or two-level buildings featuring retail and restaurants on the ground level with offices and other businesses on top. It would also allow four-storey multi-family complexes with commercial on the bottom.

To provide an adequate population base to support neighbourhood businesses, medium-density multi-family uses, such as rowhouses, stacked townhouses and low-rise apartments, are proposed over the long term for Sixth Street between 19th and 16th avenues and between 14th and 12th avenues.

A "commercial gateway" identified in the 1982 plan for Sixth between 10th and 12th avenues, would continue, characterized by two- to four-storey buildings containing offices and commercial spaces serving a wider market than the immediate neighbourhood.

The draft proposals will be distributed to local businesses and area residents and an open house will be held in early 2013 on a weekday evening at Edmonds Community School where people could provide input, the report said. A finalized plan would be developed after the consultations and presented to council for consideration.

Coun. Pietro Calendino said at a recent council meeting that it's hoped the added density being proposed would be sufficient to interest developers in bringing renewal to the area.

"Some areas on Sixth Street have been empty lots for a while," Calendino said.

Coun. Paul McDonell said the proposed changes would add to the city's recent efforts to revitalize Edmonds Town Centre, citing as examples city investment in the new community centre currently under construction, Tommy Douglas library and the No. 2 fire hall.

"I like the mix of development [in the plan], it's like a village atmosphere, maybe similar to the Heights on Hastings. It's a good blend," McDonell said, noting there's a lot of land whose owners have been waiting "in a holding pattern" for the plan's completion.

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