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Squamish Nation approves 11-tower development near Burrard Bridge

Squamish Nation approves major Vancouver development
WATCH: Squamish Nation approves major Vancouver development

The Squamish Nation has approved a plan that will change the Vancouver skyline.

Members voted Tuesday in support of a massive development at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge in Kitsilano. The project, which will be done in partnership with Westbank Projects Corp., will see up to 11 towers built next to False Creek.

Squamish Nation approves Vancouver development
Squamish Nation approves Vancouver development

The project, known as Sen̓áḵw, is a partnership is estimated to cost $3 billion.

Members voted 87 per cent in favour of the land designation and 81 per cent in support of the business terms.

“This is the beginning of a new type of leadership that the Squamish Nation wishes to demonstrate through our territories,” said Khelsilem, adding that he was “elated” with the results.

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Khelislem estimated that the development would generate between $8 billion and $10 billion for the Squamish Nation over the lifetime of the project.

He said that money would be used to generate wealth for the Squamish people, and support youth and elders amid the region’s affordability crisis.

“This type of development is unprecedented in Squamish Nation history, it’s unprecedented in Vancouver, its unprecedented in British Columbia and and its unprecedented in Canada and the world.”

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Toby Baker, CEO of the Squamish Nation’s Nch’kay Development Corporation, said because the project is being developed on Squamish land, it is a unique opportunity for development.

Since it’s on Squamish land, the development of the 11.7-acre parcel does not require any approval by the City of Vancouver.

READ MORE: Squamish Nation planning major housing development on lands near Kitsilano

Because the project is on reserve territory, it will not require any approvals from the City of Vancouver, though Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has said the city is negotiating a service delivery agreement with the nation.

Baker said it also means that rental is possible on a scale unseen elsewhere in the area, because there is no up-front cost for the land, meaning the economics of rental development work.

Once complete, between 70 and 90 per cent of the 6,000 new units will be market rentals.

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An artist’s rendering of the proposed Senakw development straddling the north and south sides of the Burrard Bridge.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Senakw development straddling the north and south sides of the Burrard Bridge. Revery Architecture / Westbank / Squamish Nation

Building on Squamish lands means there are tax benefits, potential for Indigenous jobs, and full control over density, Baker said.

“We don’t want to be a poor neighbour in terms of looking at the overall neighbourhood context for how this looks and feels,” he said.

“But at the same time this is a piece of reserve land that has been significantly constrained due to government influence around expropriations in the area, and we had to densify that area as much as we did.”

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Senakw development.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Senakw development. Revery Architecture / Westbank / Squamish Nation

Squamish land in the area, known as Senakw, once included Vanier Park as well as the Seaforth armoury, but was whittled down over years of expropriation and buyouts, eventually forcing the nation’s members to the North Shore.

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The Squamish only won control of the 11.7-acre piece of Kits Point they now possess after years of legal battles.

“There’s a whole social piece and historical piece that put is in the position to get the most money for that piece of land, so we went in with a clear conscience to maximize the profit and  develop something that meets the needs of the Squamish people.”

Construction of the first phase is expected to begin in 2021.