Rendering: Aquilini Development

A proposed redevelopment of the Willingdon Lands in Burnaby aims to transform the site into a new mixed-use urban village.

The Musqueam Indian Band, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Aquilini Development recently unveiled plans to create a contemporary Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh urban village, encompassing approximately 5,000 housing units in addition to a 450,000-square-foot film studio and childcare centre.

The 40-acre Willingdon Lands are located on the southwest corner of Willingdon Avenue and Canada Way, part of shared territory between the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations.

Upon completion, the new development will feature a range of housing types, including affordable, moderate-income and market rentals, as well as leasehold strata and live-work units in a variety of sizes and formats.

The proposed housing falls in line with recommendations made by the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing in Burnaby, which focuses on implementing sustainable and accessible communities and increasing the amount of affordable rental housing in the city.

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“Our vision for the Willingdon Lands is to create a contemporary Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh urban village that provides a cultural experience, is interconnected with nature, and allows us to tell our stories through placemaking and design,” said Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow in a statement.

“This is an opportunity for us to continue our legacy as land developers and economic forces within the modern landscape. With this project, we will continue to advance reconciliation and accommodation and create a positive legacy for future generations.”

The Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations teamed with Aquilini Development to purchase the Willingdon Lands property from the provincial government in 2014.

Design elements will include artwork, native plants and a medicine garden inspired by the nations’ history and culture. Plans also call for a Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh cultural centre and an outdoor hearth that “will serve as a gathering place for both the nations and the wider community.”

Rendering: Aquilini Development

“Storytelling is an integral part of Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh oral tradition and culture,” Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Jen Thomas said in a statement.

“In reimagining this site, we wanted to embed storytelling into the space in ways both big and small — from the film studio, the cultural centre and the community hearth to the use of native plants, hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ placenames and educational signage.”

Forming a connection to the land and water is a key component of the master plan. The project will also illuminate a section of Sumner Creek, restoring a part of the natural creek system to the neighbourhood.

“This project is the first of its kind in Burnaby,” said Ryan Seminoff, president of Aquilini Development, in a statement. “We are very grateful to have been invited by the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations to be a partner on this important project, which will celebrate Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh culture in Burnaby and add to the growing portfolio of Indigenous-led development projects.”

The master plan will be presented to the City of Burnaby’s planning and development committee on Tuesday, Nov. 23. Following the public consultation process, a public hearing is planned to take place in the spring of 2022.

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