A 250-unit apartment and townhouse project has been proposed for the former home of Towne Cinema on McCallum Road, south of Highway 1. City of Abbotsford image

Development at old Towne Cinema site moves forward

Two hundred fifty apartment and townhomes to be built at McCallum Road site near UFV in Abbotsford

A 250-unit apartment and townhouse complex slated for the former home of Towne Cinema got the thumbs up from council earlier this month.

Council’s approval came after a public hearing during which a handful of local residents expressed some concerns, but refrained from opposing the project outright.

The concept approved by council would see two six-storey apartment buildings and 73 townhouses built on the two-hectare (five-acre) site, which is on the east side of McCallum Road, just south of the King Road intersection.

The apartment buildings would each boast 75 units, while 27 of the townhouses would have small, 400-square-foot secondary suites suited for students.

At a public hearing, three soon-to-be neighbours of the development said they didn’t oppose the project but worried about the height of the buildings, as well as the increased traffic at the McCallum Road roundabout.

“I would be so happy to see that lot used, but I’m concerned about the lack of sunlight and the lack of privacy,” a resident of the apartment building next door said.

Colin Hogan, of Focus Architecture, said the scale of the development was significantly lower than allowed by zoning for the property.

“We’re trying to strike a balance between getting enough density to try to offset some of the housing shortage and going overboard and filling up the site,” he said. He noted that seven six-storey buildings would have been possible, but said that it would have been “pushing the envelope.” Instead, density on the site will be near the minimum allowed for the midrise-zoned property.

He added that the location of the apartment buildings were positioned to have the least impact on neighbours.

The project was commended by council and was unanimously approved. Mayor Henry Braun was absent for the discussion, having recused himself because he co-owns a ranch with one of the developers.

Coun. Ross Siemens said that the city needs more homes to address a housing shortage that has sent prices skyrocketing and rental vacancy rate to its lowest level ever.

“To get out of this housing crisis that we’re in, we need more supply,” he said.

Approval for the project came as council drew closer to finally approving a new neighbourhood plan for the UDistrict area surrounding the University of the Fraser Valley. That plan lays out how the area will grow over the next two decades. But already, the area around King and McCallum looks set to rapidly change over the next two years. A six-storey mixed-use building is nearing completion at the intersection, the Towne Cinema project is now heading toward final approval, and last year the city gave the thumbs up for the construction of three rental apartment buildings on McCallum between King and the King Connector.

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