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widgetBlessed with abundant green space and industries ranging from tech to film, Vancouver’s neighbour is pursuing urban density

When Maclean’s magazine compiled its first (and only) ranking of Canada’s best- and worst-run cities in 2009, Burnaby topped the list. Debt-free, thanks to lessons learned during the Great Depression, when the city went bankrupt, it also scored highly for its environmental health, recreation and culture, and economic development.

Although it covers slightly more than 3 percent of the land area of Metro Vancouver, Burnaby accounts for about 10 percent of the population and is the third most populated urban centre in B.C., according to the municipal website. It’s home to four post-secondary institutions, including SFU and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), and established clusters in technology, utilities, film and television, and regional headquarters. The Canadian home base of Electronic Arts Inc.—the world’s largest video game company—is in Burnaby, and two-thirds of the region’s studio space is located within its borders: six purpose-built film studios; two converted stages; and six commercial/special effects stages.

Occupying about 90 square kilometres between Vancouver and New Westminster, and stretching from Burrard Inlet to the Fraser River, Burnaby aims to balance the requirements of the natural environment, the economy and community livability. Thanks to its Park Acquisition Program, a quarter of the city is open space and parks, and it has collaborated with SFU to develop an award-winning sustainable community, UniverCity, on Burnaby Mountain.

Walkable neighbourhoods with an urban vibe are key to the city’s Economic Development Strategy 2020. Previously, sectors such as tech, warehousing/distribution and light manufacturing were drawn to Burnaby by its vacant land and low occupancy costs plus high vehicular accessibility and central location, but increasing property values and traffic problems have led to a shift in growth east to the Fraser Valley.

To encourage more high-density, compact communities, the city has been divided into four quadrants, each with a town centre served by rapid transit: Metrotown, Brentwood, Lougheed and Edmonds. If fully developed by 2021, they will accommodate some 11.8 million square feet of office, retail and other commercial space.

The transformation of Brentwood is well underway, with the first phase scheduled to be completed in spring 2019. Located at the northeast corner of Willingdon Avenue and Lougheed Highway, its 250 retail spaces and 11 residential towers will be set back with the upper level of a two-tier plaza connecting the 28-acre site to the SkyTrain station and used for special events, while the lower level will relate to the street and existing housing. At the southwest corner, Solo District’s office, retail and residential units are already occupied by the likes of Regus and Whole Foods.

Population: 248,793
Household age (0-45, 45-64, 64+): 37.8%, 39.9%, 22.3%
University grads: 29%
Average household income: $89,195
Average household income under 45: $84,100
Five-year income growth, 2012-17: 13.9%
Five-year population growth: 6.8%

Avg. benchmark detached home price: $1,498,833
Avg. benchmark condominium price:  $686,433
Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom: $1,381
Average annual household spending on shelter: $21,762

Key industries: Utilities; science and technology; film and television; media; construction; wholesale trade; education; manufacturing; retail
Notable employers: British Columbia Housing Management CommissionBeedie Development GroupBest Buy Canada Ltd.British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT); ClioEA CanadaFortinet Technologies (Canada) ULCHemmera Envirochem Inc.R.F. Binnie & Associates Ltd.Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (Canada) Ltd.Simon Fraser University (SFU)
Regional unemployment: 4% (February)

Total value of building permits issued in 2017: $1,051,685,049
Change from 2016: 28%
Average processing time for a building permit: 6.8 months
Cost of a business licence: First year $340-$4,200; renewal $180-$4,200
Business property tax rate: $13.61 per $1,000 of assessed value
Average office lease rate per sq. ft./year: $19.05
Average retail lease rate: $12-$42

Quality of LifeQUALITY OF LIFE
Major post-secondary institutions: SFU; British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT); Art Institute of Vancouver–Burnaby; University of Phoenix (Burnaby campus)
Major recreational amenities: Swangard Stadium; Mountain Air Bike Skills Park; Burnaby Village Museum; Canlan Ice Sports Burnaby 8 Rinks; Burnaby Lake Sports Complex West; natural parks (Burnaby Mountain, Burnaby Lake, Deer Lake)
Key annual events: Hats Off Day; Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival; World Rivers Day; Haunted Village; Heritage Christmas
Average annual household spending on recreation: $4,299
Residents who walk or bike to work: 2.7%