There are plenty of spots in Burnaby where you can eat and be surrounded by amazing views
Set against the picturesque Deer Lake Park, Symphony in the Park is one of Burnaby’s most popular summer traditions
The Burnaby Village Museum invites visitors to take a trip back to the 1920s
One of Burnaby Village Museum’s big attractions is the restored 1912 C.W. Park Carousel
The iconic Kamui Mintara (Playground of the Gods) sculptures located on Burnaby Mountain are certainly a sight to behold
The City’s commitment to a sustainable future for its communities and creating a place where everyone feels at home, are a few reasons why Burnaby is the place to live, work, learn and play
A livable, sustainable community can loosely be defined as one in which well-thought out civic policies and infrastructure development have resulted in a welcoming home for people of all ethnic, social and economic backgrounds—all of whom, inspired by their surroundings, are committed to the ongoing improvement of their neighbourhoods.
In short, welcome to Burnaby, a city that according to a recent Vancouver Sun article has more ethnic diversity than any other region in Metro Vancouver, spread more evenly than in other cities.
While no one would pretend that Burnaby doesn’t have its fair share of problems endemic to any city, the reasons for Burnaby’s livability seem obvious: plenty of parks, plenty of amenities, a lively arts and culture scene, a healthy array of housing options and effective social programs. But achieving livability (which is inextricably linked to sustainability) is an enormous task that can be facilitated by deliberate civic planning, such as the development of policies that led to the creation of Burnaby’s four town centres.
“We never take our exceptional livability for granted,” says Mayor Derek Corrigan. “We work with our citizens and business leaders every day—in workshops, on committees and in all City Hall departments—to ensure that we’re always in a position to seize every opportunity to make our city better for the people who live, work, study and visit.”
Since the new millennium, Burnaby has stepped up its efforts to be a catalyst for positive progress. With considerable input from stakeholders and unprecedented levels of citizen involvement, it developed a trilogy of sustainability strategies addressing economic development, as well as social and environmental sustainability. In 2010, the social component was the second to be undertaken (after economic development, adopted in 2007), and the draft for environmental component was recently completed with the help of over 2,100 people contributing over 7,000 ideas. (The draft is a framework of targets and initiatives for energy and greenhouse gas reduction, and it focuses on four sectors: buildings, district energy, transportation and solid waste.)
“It takes a great deal of commitment from the city, citizens and businesses to develop the comprehensive plans that shape Burnaby,” states Mayor Corrigan. “Over the years, together we’ve learned that it’s worth the effort. We all enjoy reaping the significant rewards.”
The Social Sustainability Strategy is intended to be a guideline for community members to achieve a prosperous, higher quality of life, and it consists of 127 actions categorized into seven priorities: Meeting Basic Needs, Celebrating Diversity and Culture, Getting Involved, Learning For Life, Enhancing Neighbourhoods, Getting Around and Protecting Our Community.
Why the City of Burnaby is a World-Class City
A Look at the Evolution of Burnaby's Four Town Centres
The strategy will guide the city’s decisions and allocation of resources for the next decade, and also serve as a tool to help residents take action to combat social problems such as declining housing affordability, aging populations, high-risk youth behavior and unemployment.
Even though these three strategies are still relatively new, their outcomes are already evident. For example, in alignment with the goals of Social Sustainability’s Learning for Life priority, Burnaby Literacy Now has implemented tutoring programs to improve the literacy skills of adults with low levels literacy.
Also, under Meeting Basic Needs, the City, in partnership with Fraser Health and the Burnaby School District, adopted formal Terms of Reference for a Healthier Community Partnership, in January 2014. The three organizations will align efforts to monitor the health status of Burnaby residents and address health priorities.
Other outcomes include the City amending its adaptable housing policy to require developments in all areas of Burnaby to supply 20 per cent of single-level units as adaptable in new market and non-market, multi-family developments; the City becoming a member of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination; and an audit of pedestrian routes that has resulted in design changes and infrastructure improvements to create a more accessible environment for people of all ages and abilities.
“Because our plans are always developed in consultation with our community, we know that their outcomes will be embraced by the citizens and businesses that call Burnaby home,” says Mayor Corrigan. “Over time, Burnaby is realizing the vision of its people.”
It could be argued that Burnaby’s unrelenting focus on sustainability has, over the years, infiltrated the public psyche to the degree that any activity has at least some aspect of improving livability. Take infrastructure growth: more often than not, it enhances social benefits in addition to adding new buildings to the skyline. The current Metrotown redevelopment, for example, includes several non-profit office spaces and resource centre projects, courtesy of Polygon Homes, Bosa and other developers.
New Polygon and Intercorp residences in Metrotown are helping to shape Burnaby’s first art walk (on Beresford Street between Dow and McKay avenues). The much-anticipated art-focused streetscapes will demonstrate the city’s emphasis on creating pedestrian- and transit-friendly spaces.
The redevelopment of the other town centres are all geared towards enhancing community rather than merely building new homes, where pedestrian considerations, transit, gathering spaces and live/work options are given special priority.
“We don’t want to restrict art and creativity to galleries,” says Mayor Corrigan. “Working with citizens and our business community, we are bringing art into the streets—where the people are! Our business community has supported these efforts at every turn.”
It should be emphasized that redevelopment and enhancement in Burnaby doesn’t as much mean doing away with something substandard as it does adding to the well-established elements that give Burnaby its distinct character and lifestyle appeal.
Admittedly, some of these elements are a product of nature, not government, albeit subtly augmented for human activity. Burnaby’s 86.4-hectare Central Park is known for its excellent sports and recreation facilities: tennis courts outdoor swimming pool, horseshoe pitch and a pitch-and-putt golf course. Anchoring the park is Swangard Stadium, host facility for many sporting, cultural, corporate and fundraising events. Similarly, Burnaby Lake Regional Nature Park, created by a glacier 12,000 years ago and only a century ago was a location for sawmills, is today populated by bird watchers, hikers and kayakers.
As for the entirely man-made elements that contribute to Burnaby’s lifestyle appeal, they occur year-round and include Summer Fun at Civic Square (Sunday concerts and outdoor movies); the annual Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival (world-class music on three stages in Deer Lake Park); the annual, free Symphony in the Park (which features the Vancouver Symphony for audiences that spread their family picnics on the lawn of Deer Lake Park) Giro di Burnaby (a high-speed bicycle race on a short circuit with the city streets closed to traffic); Heritage Village (which offers free admission) and Heritage Christmas at Burnaby Village Museum.
“In everything we do, we’re focused on livability,” says Mayor Corrigan. “If you create an exceptional environment, people want to be there—which is why people want to be here, in Burnaby.”