SOLO: North Burnaby on the High Rise
The southwest corner of Lougheed and Willingdon, formerly the site of a Canadian Tire and industrial landscape, is being transformed into a modern multi-tower community: SOLO, short for South of Lougheed. With plans to make Lougheed Highway more pedestrian friendly, and the long-term vision of the Brentwood Mall redevelopment, there is lots to suggest this pocket of North Burnaby has a bright and growing future. Great transit links, a dedicated bike lane and myriad amenities nearby make this a very liveable area and help to give this development a pretty high Walk Score. REW.ca spoke with Appia Developments'sales manager Lisa Murrell about the SOLO community. Whole Foods, retail, business and relaxation all help form the legacy of this development.
If the SOLO project was harbouring a dream of the perfect anchor tenant, then it has likely come true. The US organic food chain has a reputation second to none in fact it even has its own catchphrase: "the Whole Foods Effect." "Whole Foods is coming? Time to buy," declared Salon.com earlier this year.
And while Lisa remained tight-lipped over other businesses, retailers and restaurants lined up to move in, she's excited by their calibre.
The demographic in North Burnaby is perfect for Whole Foods and other top-notch retail, says Lisa: "North Burnaby loves North Burnaby." It is the mixed demographic of students, first-time buyers, young professionals all the way through to older couples looking to downsize that appeals to Appia's president Jim Bosa and SOLO's anchor tenant. The location also ticks a number of other boxes: nearby there is also plenty of employment. Lisa highlights large employers like Bridge Studios; it's within the student catchment area for Simon Fraser University and BCIT, and then there's downtown Vancouver, only a 15-20-minute commute on Skytrain.
As well as appealing to the local market, Appia wants to attract people to North Burnaby. Part of the city's mandate is to increase the density around the transit hubs. "It's about getting people out of their cars," says Lisa. "You don't have to drive to the grocery store, you just go downstairs." And just a short walk on the other side of Lougheed is Brentwood Mall, home to more shops and restaurants, and set for redevelopment itself.
A mix of sizes caters to the diverse market, but what sets this development apart from most others in Burnaby is that it comes fully air-conditioned, with nine-foot ceilings and an efficient geothermal heating system.
This last point has two major benefits: it's green and it will reduce energy bills.
And let's face it, when you live in a beautiful area, views are important. Bosatown, as SOLO and its nearby high-rises are dubbed, is what Lisa describes as a "co-operative build as opposed to a competitive build." The Bosa clan Nat, Jim and Ryan have worked to ensure view corridors are intact. "We looked at the three projects all in a row and made sure that not only was the architecture going to be complementary, but that there was a co-operative plan to redevelop this little North Burnaby pocket. As you move down, you pay attention to what you've done."
Each residence will also get a prepaid 12-month car-share membership with Modo. It's another move designed to help people reduce their reliance on their own cars.
There are many aspects to a community, but an integral ingredient is people. Manda and Cory Sayers are one of the couples who will be taking occupancy. There were a number of factors that appealed to them but one stood out. Any ideas what it might be? "Whole Foods moving in was a big draw," says Manda. "We currently live in the area and noticed the towers going up. We found the location really convenient, and easy to get downtown, to Coquitlam and elsewhere."
Another couple are Sandra and Peter Luongo, for whom nostalgia has played a key role in their decision to move to North Burnaby.
Peter says, "To be really blunt with you it was coming home; I grew up right in that area. We've spent the last 30 years in Surrey and Langley and we've loved it here, but this is going home."
He recalls how the area has evolved since his parents arrived from Italy. "We've watched home change," he says. Modernization and gentrification are not always seen as positive steps, but Peter is happy to see what the area is becoming. "It was the place to go because you could afford it. Now it's a place to go if you can afford it."
"When I was 12 I used to catch the express bus with my brother on Hastings, which was a 15-minute ride to downtown. And now with Skytrain it's a 15-minute journey downtown. When we were kids we shopped at Brentwood Mall and that's just across the road. Our daughter lives in Burnaby, so does my brother, and we have friends there, too, including our Real Estate Agent, Tony Merola."
For Sandra, too, it holds childhood memories. "I didn't grow up there but the Brentwood area was where we shopped." She said that before visiting the sales office they didn't know much about the plans for SOLO and its surrounding community. "We didn't know what to expect when we went in there [the SOLO sales office] and we liked what we heard. Then later on News Hour we heard about the big plans for the whole area."
As well as being excited by the expansion and redevelopment of North Burnaby, the couple love that that they will be able to see the North Shore mountains and downtown from their condo. They're looking forward to being close to the centre of Vancouver but without having to live there. "It doesn't feel like we're living in the booming metropolis, but we can go there whenever we want."
"If it's the kind of living you want [condo tower] it's number one: it surpasses downtown, Lougheed Mall and Metrotown as it gives you access to it all. You can't beat what SOLO offers".
North Burnaby is an area on the high rise. SOLO provides considerable savings on energy bills, a walkable community, a car-share scheme and great transit links. With the wider area also benefitting from redevelopment, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Oh, and Whole Foods is coming... Is it time to buy?
|Types of units||Junior/studio 3-br penthouse and "Skyvilla"|
|Size range||479-489 sq. ft. 1785 sq. ft.|
|Patios/decks||Private balconies; communal rooftop BBQ and wet bar, dog park, green space and gardens|
|Price range||Low $249,900 - $1,328,900|
|Standard features||Geothermal heat exchange system, central air conditioning, 9-foot ceilings or higher, imported Italian Armony Cucine cabinetry in kitchen and bathrooms, stainless steel appliance packages featuring Blomberg, Bosch, Fisher & Paykel|
|Building amenities||Detached rooftop fitness studio featuring his/hers change rooms and sauna rooms, double-height party room with full kitchen, poker, ping pong and pool table, covered rooftop terrace BBQ area, landscaped rooftop green space and gardens, fully fenced rooftop dog park|
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