Woodlands site plans submitted to New Westminster council

Plans for a four-storey, 115-unit residential development on the site of the former Woodlands land have been submitted by the Onni Group.

A report to Monday’s New Westminster city council meeting said the two-building development would parallel the curved property line of the Grand Lawn that overlooks Columbia Street and the Fraser River.

Onni is proposing a break between the two buildings to mark the former Centre Block tower of the former Woodlands psychiatric hospital. The historical foundation footprint of the tower will be installed using the granite blocks salvaged from the 2008 fire that destroyed the building. The report said the footprint will be protected in the long term by a covenant being registered on the land title.

The original Victoria Hill planned community design guidelines for the parcel of land the structures will be built on called for the Centre Block building to be retained. But it was destroyed by the fire and the tower taken down in October 2011.

The application still has many hurdles to clear before getting the go-ahead. It must go through the New Westminster Design Panel, which will look at Onni’s proposal to have the buildings remain at four storeys even though under the current zoning buildings more than 120 feet long should vary between two and four storeys.

In addition, an open house and presentation will be made to the McBride Sapperton Residents Association in the next few weeks.

The report also notes the site will have more trees than it does now, exceed Metro Vancouver’s recycling standards and adaptable housing requirements.

Although council wasn’t expected to take any action on the proposal Monday, it was asked to approve a change to the Victoria Hill Development Agreement made necessary by the fire.

The original agreement called for a security of $1.6 million for restoring and maintaining the Centre Block building. But in July 2011, Onni agreed to give the city $600,000 in lieu of retaining the tower and provide interpretive panels and landscaping where the tower stood.

On the advice of the city solicitor, staff is recommending the agreement be formally changed to reflect the deal made between Onni and the city.

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