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New master plan for Larco land

A new concept for the Larco site on the New Westminster waterfront reduces the number of towers from five to three, and would add two acres to Westminster Pier Park. - Image Courtesy City of New Westminster
A new concept for the Larco site on the New Westminster waterfront reduces the number of towers from five to three, and would add two acres to Westminster Pier Park.
— image credit: Image Courtesy City of New Westminster

New Westminster and Larco Investments have come up with a new master plan for developing its waterfront site.

It's been nearly two decades since discussion on what to do with the Larco land located between the Fraser River Discovery Centre and Westminster Pier Park currently being used for parking. Previous plans called for five towers, with above-grade parking, but with nothing happening on it, the city went to Larco looking for more dynamic plans that could improve the connection between the waterfront and the Downtown, have better sightlines and still be economically viable for Larco.

The latest master plan revealed in a report to city council Monday calls for more open space, three towers instead of five to maintain sightlines, a dedicated park site of two acres, an extended waterfront esplanade, and a hotel.

It's expected work could begin on amending the zoning in early 2014.

The plans call for three tall, slender towers on the western portion of the site with about 800 residential units. Townhouses would be incorporated into the base of the third tower while retail would be in the other two.

Provision for a 150-room hotel would be in the middle tower, the development's signature structure. The report said the city recently did a feasibility study that determined a Downtown hotel near the Anvil Centre would be feasible.

A child-care facility could be included in tower 3, next to the park.

The towers would range from 25 to 45 storeys and be organized around a waterfront street—an extension of Quayside Drive—and public plazas connected by a 30-foot wide waterfront esplanade.

The park portion would take up about a third of the site and become a two-acre expansion of Westminster Pier Park. Infrastructure to allow boats to dock on the wharf would also be included.

The development's parking would all be below grade with a ratio of .9 spaces per residential unit including visitor and public parking. It's a ratio the report said is supported by the Downtown Parking Strategy.

Larco would provide 80 stalls for public use by the Fraser River Discovery Centre and the River Market.

Plans for the site have been in the works for nearly 20 years with Larco applying for a rezoning in 1994 that it received in 1996. In 2004, Larco returned to request the go ahead for a different version of development, which was approved in 2006. Both of those plans called for 1,000 residential units in five towers with above-grade parking.

The report said traffic modeling software shows the existing street network would not be significantly impacted by the three towers, although lineups could still be expected when trains are coming through.

It noted that while an overpass at Sixth Street would improve access, it would be very expensive, impact the proposed park extension and impede river views from Front Street. It suggests an at-grade crossing for pedestrians, cyclists and emergency vehicles at the foot of Sixth Street instead.

The report proposes the first open house for the plans be held at the River Market, Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 4 to 7 p.m., with another in early February. Presentations will also be made to the Downtown and Quayside residents associations, the Downtown Business Improvement Association and various other organizations and committees.

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