August 8, 2022

Servicing Agreement for Squamish Nation’s Senakw Development Now Public

Earlier this year Mayor Stewart announced that a servicing agreement had been signed between the Squamish First Nation and the City of Vancouver for the development of the First Nations project  Sen̓áḵw.

The agreement for 150 years was signed on May 25 for the 10.2 acre property and was to be public but has finally been released in August. These agreements are normally done to provide servicing to new sites, and ensure that critical infrastructure like water, electricity and sewer are available, and have the capacity to service the new development. It also details how things like police, fire and ambulance will be accommodated, and addresses any outstanding infrastructure issues.

The agreement also outlines the location in towers of the 6,080 units in the project, which are all rental with 20 percent at or below average market rents, which is City policy approved in 1988.

The strata units that were previously contemplated in the project appear to have abandoned. The project anticipates being built out over four phases.

The Sen̓áḵw Servicing Agreement  provides more detail on a project that has been a bit shy on updates. Now the final wording has been approved by both parties and you can take a look at the full 250 page agreement and attachments here.

The agreement gives a historical context to the land, and notes that the development will follow the laws that are in force in the Province of British Columbia.  It also recognizes that the First Nation has the right to develop the land as they see fit.

The agreement provides for a “systems” approach to capacity planning with “appropriate level of public amenity and infrastructure” needed for the project. The agreement means that at this stage the infrastructure will conform to all city standards and will create public amenities, and that the First Nation will be reimbursing the city for work that would normally be covered in permit costs paid to the City of Vancouver.

Community Integration is a key goal in the agreement, with minimal detrimental impacts and risks to surrounding neighbourhoods, and no financial risk to the city.

Transparency is also important, which is the reason this document is now publicly available.

In terms of the public interest, Sen̓áḵw has five major objectives:

a. Climate Leadership at a Global Scale;

b. A legacy for the First Nation;

c. Economic Benefit for the Nation’s housing, education and social services needs;

d. Promoting reconciliation between the Nation and the City;

e. to assist with Vancouver’s housing crisis.

The Agreement recognizes that the reserve land is not subject to the typical community planning process the City would normally undertake, but agrees that if there is a five percent or more change in the development proposed that the agreement can be modified.

The road to to the development as well as the proposed services corridor will cross Vanier Park which is owned by the Canadian government and leased to the City of Vancouver.

In terms of park space, the new mall rooftop park at Oakridge Centre and the new Rainbow Park at Smithe and Richards are being used as examples.

In terms of development, the site will be staged in four phases, with build out anticipated by 2033.

The buildings will meet or exceed BC Energy Code Step 3 (the buildings will be 20% more efficient) and one building will be a mass timber structure.

The agreement also stipulates the inclusion of public art and anticipates a streetcar, that would either connect with the Canada Line or Science World. A ferry station is also mentioned,  and the potential for a ferry line that connects with Squamish lands in North Vancouver is included. The Nation will also be paying for a 15 million dollar study/design for a transit hub on the Burrard Bridge. This will also expand  bridge width to service the development and modes of travel and access.

While all designs under this agreement will be submitted to the City of Vancouver for review, the agreement notes that  City of Vancouver approval is not needed. However for insurance purposes the physical design of buildings and units will have to go through some kind of design and development standard review to ensure they are built to building code and life safety standards.

Phase One has three towers with 1,411 units on Burrard Bridge’s west flank.

Phase Two is located to the east with four towers and an office tower, with 1,570 units.

Phase Three is on Burrard Bridge’s east flank with just under 1,600 units. This is the location that anticipated 59 storeys of height on one of the two towers.

Phase Four has 1500 units in two towers on the stretch of land close to English Bay.

Build out is expected to take eleven years, with the first phase completed in 2026.

You can take a look at the website for the development of Sen̓áḵw here, which is in partnership with the First Nation’s development arm and with Westbank Project Corporation.

The CBC video below outlines the agreement between the Squamish Nation and the City of Vancouver and provides some of the history of this ancestral site.


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  1. While the First Nations have no requirement for transparency on this project, the COV does. Taking land from Vanier Park to create a service road adjacent to Senakw should not have been done in secret. Creating this road breaks the conditions of the fed lease for this park (that it should remain as parkland only). I find this action by COV and lack of transparency really galling.

    1. Nothing has been “taken” and nothing is “in secret”. It’s always been very clear from the renderings that this was part of the plan – yet to be fully approved. I understand a lot of people are freaking out at the prospect of First Nations exercising some autonomy, but the straw-grasping and pearl-clutching opposition is just an old expression of puritanical judgment and fear. I remain unconvinced of flustered insistence to the contrary.

  2. The road through Vanier Park is simply a gift of valued Canadian park space to a developer who doesn’t have enough of their own land to handle their project. Every developer can now demand to be ‘gifted’ park land if they need it. A thoughtless, secret deal has opened the floodgates!

  3. 15 million to look at widening Burrard Bridge (again)? We’ve been down that road before.
    If it needs to be widened just take the 15 million and put it towards actually making it wider in the most attractive way possible.
    15 million to study something everyone is just going to complain about seems pointless. If it need to be done then just do it.

  4. Looking at the Service Agreement, and other reporting of the plans, I think the Squamish Nation are proposing to build the Transit Hub at an estimated cost of $15m, which involves adding a lane, and so effectively widening the bridge, for a short stretch to allow a bus pulloff on either side. It’s proposed to be functionally integrated but structurally and seismically isolated from the Burrard Street Bridge and will be linked to grade with a bike/pedestrian ramp. The further studies proposed are to confirm the viability of the project, and the structure will be owned and maintained by the Nation.

    1. That’s one reason it ain’t happening. The city’s Heritage ponces won’t allow it. Oh, well. Improving transit fpr thousands of daily users isn’t as important as preserving that pretty little picture in amber.

  5. My understanding is that the entirety of Vanier Park (and somewhat more) was once the Kitsilano Indian Reserve. Somehow they got double talked or cheated or otherwise bamboozeled off the map. The 1st nations are perfectly entitled to utilize a very small portion of this land for a right of way.

    1. In the year 2000, the Squamish ceded (sold) the majority of Vanier Park to the Canadian Federal government for $92,000,000, to be used only for a park, museum or recreational purposes. Their decision in a modern, legal transaction.

      1. I recall when this happened. The 92 Million as a fair price for raw land north of 1st avenue and east of Chestnut. However in 2000 the land was not raw and had improvements on it generating tax for 80 years. First nations got cheated on rent.

      2. Post

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