A historic partnership between three First Nations in British Columbia is planning a massive, first-of-its-kind development for the Jericho Lands and surrounding neighbourhood in Vancouver.
The project is led by the MST Development Corporation, a partnership between the xʷməθkʷəy҆əm (Musqueam) Nation, səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nation and Sḵwx̱ wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation, along with the Canada Lands Company. The development aims to combine the scale of large city developments with natural connectivity.
“How rich the land was is something we want celebrated and brought forward again in a bit more of a modern sense. Living in Vancouver, the world is at your front door. You’ve got the big city, YVR, everything is accessible through your front door,” said Ts’kanchtn-Calvin Charlie-Dawson, cultural liaison with the Squamish Nation.
“But you go out your back door and you look, and that’s Mother Nature, your roots where you were connected to. That’s something we want celebrated,” Charlie-Dawson said.
The 90-acre site sits between 4th and 8th avenues in the West Point Grey neighbourhood of Vancouver. Fifty-two-acres are jointly owned by MST and CLC while MST is the sole owner of the remaining 38 acres.
The current proposal would build as many as 13,000 new homes in the area, providing housing for potentially more than 26,000 new residents.
In 2016, the total population of the West Point Grey neighbourhood was 13,065, meaning the development has the potential to increase the area’s population threefold.
Based on the current plan, MST is proposing to build about 28 highrise towers onsite and at least 63 mid-rise buildings for a total floor area of 13.6 million square feet and an FSR of 3.5.
MST states at a minimum 30 per cent of the total residential floor area would be affordable housing with 20 per cent of that being social housing, equalling approximately 2,600 homes.
The central feature of the development is the construction of “The Three Sentinels,” which will be the tallest buildings on the site at 49 storeys each. Each Sentinel will represent one of the three MST Nations.
MST also plans on owning the land forever, meaning homeownership opportunities can only be had as leasehold tenures where you own the home but not the land.
According to MST, this is generally more affordable than freehold ownership, where both the land and home cost is included.
Roughly 20 acres is proposed as park space and another 10 acres as open space including playgrounds, sports fields, natural and forested areas and 13 kilometres of foot and bike paths.
Other amenities built into the current design include a public elementary school, a community centre, grocery store, hotel, MST cultural spaces and facilities and 360 day care spaces at five different locations.
The development is also leaving space for the construction of a future Jericho Lands SkyTrain Station and an Alma Street Station.
MST highlighted the importance of the tree canopy in the projects design.
“Many of the trees that still stand on ʔəy᾽alməxʷ/Iy᾽ álmexw (Jericho Lands) and stand all over Vancouver have stood on ʔəy᾽alməxʷ/Iy᾽ álmexw for many generations and have watched many of our generations go over the past several hundred years,” Charlie-Dawson said.
The development would preserve and enhance 75 per cent of a four-acre forest currently onsite and is aiming to build 45 to 60 per cent of the buildings with wood.
One of the defining topographic features is a tall ridge on the southwest corner which rises about 60 metres over the rest of the site. MST plans on building a gathering place at the top of the ridge called Wacthmens’ Hill, keeping this feature as an essential viewpoint to the mountains to the north and Mt. Baker to the east-southeast.
“This will be a place that honours the stories that the land tells, and that connects us with other sacred places,” said MST.
To reach the top of the hill, MST is proposing to build an accessible trail of switchbacks that never go above a five per cent grade.
MST estimates the entire build out process would take three decades and not start until at least five years after final approvals are gained.
The scale, originally proposed in 2021, has not been met with unanimous acclaim from residents of West Point Grey. A group called the Jericho Coalition was created to oppose the scale of the development, not the idea of the development itself.
The group, reacting to the original proposal in 2021, called the design “a surprise” that “did not show the exemplary and transformative development that planners and politicians had promised.”
“The Jericho Lands are the last large parcel of undeveloped land in Vancouver. They are not just some industrial wasteland, ripe for development and improvement.”
The group is advocating for the design to contain absolutely no highrises and instead consist of low to the ground, mid-rise structures made entirely from mass timber and modular wood construction.
“We feel that this proposal would lead to a transformative and exemplary urban development that could be a model for the world,” the group writes.
The project is expected to go to Vancouver City Council in the fall for approval and is currently out for public engagement.