Onni struggles with big box space in Fremont Village

The lack of need for big-box retail area has required a developer– and the city of Port Coquitlam– to rethink its plans for Fremont Town.

Tuesday, the city’s smart development committee examined a new vision from the Onni Group, which owns the Fremont Town residential or commercial properties in the Dominion Triangle, that calls for diminishing the size of its large-format commercial uses and adding more homes.

The triangle, located west of the Pitt River bridge and north of Lougheed Highway, contains the city’s last large tracts of land left for huge advancement and has such anchor tenants as Walmart, Canadian Tire and Mark’s Work Wearhouse.

While those retailers are a major draw, Onni states its shopping centre south of Sherling Avenue has been a hard sell because of the changing business market.

As one-third of its present commercial structures are empty, Onni is asking the city to amend the official community plan and rezoning for Fremont Village to minimize the industrial floor area by 13,225 square metres from its initial bid and to more than double the variety of residential systems on Lot C-1, located south of the Walmart parking lot.

If approved by city council (first and 2nd law readings will be considered at next Tuesday’s council meeting), the update would indicate 473 new homes on Lot C-1 plus the 294 units now under construction on Lot C-2– a total of 767 condos.

Coun. Brad West, who said he remains in favour of the land-use changes to spur development and total Fremont Town (25% of the site is unused), stated the committee he chairs is likewise asking Onni to look at doubling its 10-year dedication to supply 273 rental homes.

— for the very first time in PoCo’s history– the city prepares to get in into a real estate agreement with the designer to require 27 homes be leased out as affordable systems in perpetuity.

“I would have preferred to have seen more provided at below-market rates,” West said. “That was something I pushed for but I’m delighted since this is a start in the right instructions for Port Coquitlam.”

West said the committee likewise desires Onni to customize its proposition to change the size of the suites, allowing larger units to accommodate households, and to include a neighborhood garden.

One- and two-bedroom houses “are squeezing households from the market so we desire a better blend with 2- and three-bedroom apartments,” he said.

The proposed land-use changes come after Onni reached out last summer to Fremont Village services and sent by mail info to nearly 500 organisation addresses on the city’s northside and around Ottawa Street.

The business also fulfilled with the Downtown Port Coquitlam Service Enhancement Association (BIA), which is opposed to smaller-scale commercial in Fremont Town due to worries they will draw organisation from downtown retailers.

“We’re in a state of modification in the downtown,” said Susanna Walden, the BIA’s executive director. “We want development. We are obviously contending with Fremont Town and, if they change their space size, we remain in a position where we will be possibly be impacted by that.”

Still, she stated BIA members are considerate to Onni’s plight with its uninhabited lands.

West said Onni’s brand-new strategies “strike the ideal balance in between industrial and residential” on a former industrial-designated site that has bad soil conditions, and his aim is to see the shopping district be a complete community, where individuals can live, work and play.

Included Coun. Laura Dupont, chair of the city’s sustainability and environment committee: “These are positive zoning modifications that will bring a more livable, walkable aspect to the Fremont area. The results will be less of a big-box feel to the location and more of a concentrate on six-storey domestic with features.”

In a statement, an Onni Group spokesperson stated Fremont Village has been in the works for the past years and, at Tuesday’s committee meeting, “new instructions was offered to city personnel and the Onni Group for the final stages of the job and we are anticipating working with personnel to bring the changes to final adoption.”

Duncan Wlodarczak included: “With the upcoming addition of a brand-new B-Line bus route down Lougheed, Onni feels this is an exciting time for Port Coquitlam and Fremont Village, and we are anticipating contributing to the city’s development and new chances within the community.”