December 17, 2019

Senákw Project Approved by Squamish First Nation in Vancouver


There’s some new information on the proposed Senákw project in Vancouver which is on Squamish Nation land near Burrard Street and Vanier Park in Kitsilano. Earlier this year a three billion dollar project was announced at this site which hopes to build 6,000 dwelling units in eleven towers.

This massive project has been ratified by the Squamish Nation in a voting process, and it is intended to be built in an equal venture agreement with Westbank Development Corporation, the same organization  that has built Vancouver House.

As reported in the Vancouver Courier with Frank O’Brien , Peter Mitham  and  Hayley Woodin building 6,000 units in 11 towers “would require buildings of between 55 to 60 storeys, based on comparison with other residential towers proposed but not yet built in Vancouver.”

Squamish Nation Councillor Khelsilem indicated that while the percentage of rental versus strata units had not yet been decided, the project is seen as a long term economic development project. While Westbank will guarantee the loan for the development, and provide any needed equity, the Squamish Nation will be providing their lands.

Leases will run for 120 years, and build out could take ten years. It is intended that  rental units will have a 110 year lease and condos will have a 99 year lease paid up front, with the understanding that the condos turn back to rental units upon lease expiry.

The project will be built in five phases, with the first potentially commencing in 2021.

While the lands are going to be exempt from foreign buyers tax, speculation tax, and rent control, the Squamish Nation will be the governing authority. The Nation can collect property taxes to cover the provision of services and amenities, and will need to make agreements with the City of Vancouver for sewer, water, and other services.

As one of the largest infrastructure projects of its kind in Canada, the structuring and set up of the development will attract national interest. As Khelsilem notes on his twitter page the Nation has “access to federal tools to bring Provincial regulations into force” that could include the Residential Tenancy Act.

The history of these lands and how the Squamish First Nations have been treated is documented in this YouTube video by Douglas Harris, a UBC law professor. The history is horrendous. The section from 25:00 documents some of the specifics.


Images: DailyHive PostMedia

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  1. Thanks for the newer pic of the development area. This one gives a much better idea of the complete layout. So happy those ugly brown brick buildings on the south Kitsilano side are going to get mostly blocked from view when going over the bridge. The whole thing seems like it will make an attractive gateway effect going either direction.

    1. Eeww, brick, icky! How dare they inflict that on a city that cherishes its ravishing views of greyish glass, seafoam spandrel and beige vertical blinds.

  2. Suddenly the Molson site looks like it needs to be integrated and provide a commercial core. The Senakw project alone has the population to support a full supermarket but there’s nothing like that in the walkable neighbourhood.

  3. A great project which will provide much needed rental housing in a great location to many. It’ll prove what “free” land and less planning involvement by local governments can build.

    First nations have property tax authorities on their lands, just like SFU or UBC on their land. Many residents will not be indigenous.

    Therefore, one wonders: Who will pay for schools, roads, transit, policing, parks, pools or medical services for these 10,000+ (mainly non-native now non-BC) residents provided by federal gov, province, MetroVan, school board or City of Vancouver ? Presumably through GST, CACs, DCCs and ongoing property taxes levied on the developer / landowner ?

    Is there precedent for this in Canada elsewhere (besides SFU and UBC) which pays services levies tied to City of V property values in lieu of property taxes?

    1. This moral panic over the zero sum certitude of this unique development is annoying. There will be DCC’s. I sense the fear in this post and others in The Sun that letting the First Nations ‘get away with this’ will lead to chaos and violent anarchy. Hard eye roll. There are very few of these plots and it’s not a trend. One set of apartments going untaxed isn’t going to lead to the island of Dr Moreau. Quit being such a bunch of fontleroys and take the rentals.

      Editor’s Note:

  4. I agree. Let’s not put our noses out of joint just because the City of Vancouver (COV) won’t be collecting property taxes. It ‘s little different than development at UBC or in “enclave municipalities” within larger cities. There will be agreements with the COV and likely with the Vancouver School Board (VSB). The revenues received will amount to taxes paid by property owners except by another name. The City would be in its rights just to add a small percent for the trouble of creating an office to negotiate and collect the payments (except maybe there are offsetting economies of scale inherent in dealing with one very large land owner). While I’m not sure the renters will be real renters as one normally conceives of renters or that many of the units will be “affordable,” more rental housing may well be one benefit of this proposal. All in all, it’s also good to see the region’s First Nations becoming real partners in development.

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