Photo: geraldbrazell/Flickr

As house prices continue to climb in Metro Vancouver, mall parking lots may become hot spots for residential developers looking to build dense housing.

This is already the case at Burnaby’s Lougheed Town Centre, where a master-planned community for the shopping centre’s revitalization includes a proposed 37-storey high-rise apartment tower, built on a portion of the mall’s parking lot.

“I think it’s a better use of land than sort of flat open parking lots,” Tsur Somerville, associate professor at the University of British Columbia, tells BuzzBuzzNews.

Shape Properties is planning to build the apartment tower along with four other high-rise buildings on the mall’s property, one of which intended for purpose-built rental housing.

Somerville says if the cost of development is small relative to the return, it’s not surprising that mall owners are considering turning their parking lots into housing.

“If you’re looking at environments that are land constrained then surface parking lots are a pretty low-intensity use of land that don’t make a lot of sense when land values are really high,” says Somerville.

Before any shovels hit the ground, members of the public will have a chance to share their opinions about the development at a public hearing tonight at Burnaby’s city hall.

According to the City, only one resident has sent a letter of concern about the tower’s construction but not that it will be taking over mall parking space.

“As of Friday, one letter expressed concerns about the impact on the area during the construction phase, not the rezoning itself but just during the construction. Other than that I think people have pretty much accepted that this is the agreed upon plan for the area,” Dennis Back, a Burnaby city clerk, tells BuzzBuzzNews.

Somerville says open parking lots can be an inefficient use of land but to rezone the area for residential purposes can be a tricky task.

However, he adds there are ways to create more parking spots around the residence.

“There’s a lot of complicated zoning and process issues because the land is not zoned for that type of use. So, it’s not a simple process but if you think about it… you can always park underneath the building,” says Somerville.

Burnaby isn’t the only city in Metro Vancouver that’s possibly converting parking lots into new homes.

According to CBC News, Morguard Investments is planning to build four high-rise towers at Coquitlam Centre Mall. The mall and new towers will be responsible for parking, however the City won’t require them to replace any parking lost to the towers.

Once Burnaby’s public hearing is complete, the proposal will be up for consideration and adoption by City Council at a subsequent meeting.

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