The name for Sen̓áḵw is representative of its place. “Àḵw” meaning head, representing the head of False Creek, “en̓” refers to “being in the middle”, representing the middle of the Squamish territory in the Kitsilano area, and “S” signifies a place name. Together, the name Sen̓áḵw is interpreted as “The place inside the head of False Creek”.
Sen̓áḵw is part of the unceded territory of the Squamish Nation dating back to the time immemorial. The land was as a seasonal fishing village, which became a permanent village in the 19th Century. In 1868, the Federal Government established Kitsilano Indian Reserve No. 6, a parcel of land of approximately 37 acres. Over the decades to come it was further annexed until the Squamish residents were provide a small stipend and barged off the land. After a decades long court battle launched in the late 1970s, ownership of 10.5 acres of the Kitsilano Reserve lands were returned in 2003. Today is the next chapter for these lands where development of Sen̓áḵw has the potential to not only partially right this historical injustice, but also to add significant new much-needed low-carbon rental housing to the city.
The Squamish Nation relies heavily on leasing revenue. Many leases are due to expire in the next 25 years, developing reserve lands now will ensure financial security in the future.
The development of the Sen̓áḵw Lands will tell the world Squamish Nation's story and history. It will create a highly sustainable, mixed-use project of primarily purpose-built rental housing of approximately 4 million square feet or 6,000 units that will be an economic driver for the Nation now and for generations to come.
Overall objectives of the project include:
- City-building: the Sen̓áḵw Lands will be a world class city building example of a transit-oriented project with purpose-built and highly sustainable rental housing delivered where it is needed.
- Climate Leadership on a global scale: the development will showcase climate leadership on a global scale as a showpiece netzero project. Our Nation's deep connection to the environment and stewardship dates back millennia and is the foundation that will set a new standard for sustainability, including district energy and progressive, low carbon transportation options.
- A Legacy for the Squamish Nation: future uses on the site will tell the story of the Sen̓áḵw lands and reflect the ongoing legacy of the Nation by weaving our rich artistic tradition into the very architecture of the project.
- Significant economic benefit: long-term income will allow our community to meet its housing, education, and social service needs. It will help deliver improved health care, culture, language, arts and will include opportunities for member housing, that will help ensure the success and well-being of membership far into the future. The project will create employment opportunities for members at all stages of the development including the project's design, construction, public art, and in many other aspects.
Sen̓áḵw is being developed on lands located at the southern end of the Burrard Bridge. It is named after the village of Sen̓áḵw - a settlement on Squamish reserve land that was illegally seized by the Government of Canada in the 19th century.
The Squamish Nation never gave up its claim to this land, and after a legal fight that lasted decades, a small portion of the Nation's original reserve land was returned to it. Now the Nation is rebuilding the village of Sen̓áḵw, into a new, highly sustainable neighbourhood where all are welcome, in the heart of a global city.
The development at Sen̓áḵw is reconciliation in action. The Squamish people inhabited these lands up until the 19th century, when they were forcibly removed and transported across Burrard inlet by barge, with no one permitted to remain.
After a decades-long court battle, a court decision in 2003 returned a small, misshapen 10.5-acre portion of the original 82-acre reserve to the Squamish Nation. This parcel will become the new neighbourhood of Sen̓áḵw - which the Nation is building in the heart of a global city.
The new development at Sen̓áḵw demonstrates that reconciliation need not be zero-sum. It will ease Vancouver's housing shortage, will create tens of thousands of square feet of publicly accessible amenities, and will contribute tens of millions of dollars to service improvements in the City of Vancouver.
When First Nations utilize their lands for value creating developments within their jurisdiction, everyone benefits. This project is a legacy for the Squamish Nation, but also for the City of Vancouver - and for all of Canada.
The Squamish Nation had occupied Sen̓áḵw and the surrounding lands since time immemorial up to the late 19th century, when the families living at Sen̓áḵw were illegally forced to leave their homes. A court decision in 2003 returned a small portion of Sen̓áḵw to the Squamish People. As Indigenous Peoples, they have the right to live, to achieve self-determination and to create prosperity in their own territory.
There is an opportunity to utilize the Sen̓áḵw lands to create a new community that will create housing as well as significant economic, social and cultural benefits for the Nation, while supporting the Nation's long-term economic sustainability. Much of the Squamish Nation's income currently relies on long-term leases, many of which expire in the next 25 years. Developing the reserve lands now will help ensure financial security for Squamish Nation.
The Nation is intimately involved in the design and programming of the spaces on site. Each of their departments need to review and approve the plans, proformas, and general aspects of the project.
The project was designed to maximize economic benefits for the Squamish Community, which will assist with funding for education, housing, healthcare, and more.
When it comes to programming, the Nation will be involved in the leasing of the commercial spaces in the project and will ensure that services chosen will be beneficial to both Nation members and all residents of Sen̓áḵw.
The Nation chose to develop rental housing, to ensure that the next 7 generations of Squamish members will see economic benefits from this project.
The project is being led by a partnership between the Squamish Nation, Nch'ḵay̓ Development Corporation (the Squamish Nation's economic development arm), and Westbank — under the partnership name Nch'ḵay̓ West.
The federal government is financing construction of Phases 1 and 2 with a $1.4B loan through the Rental Construction Financing Initiative (RCFI) program and have also granted a license for the development of the access lane in Vanier Park. At the ground-breaking ceremony in September 2022, Prime Minister Trudeau called the federal government's support through the RCFI financing “reconciliation in action”.
There will be over 6,000 rental units at Sen̓áḵw. Included in these 6,000 are approximately 1,200 affordable rental units as defined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The balance will be market rental. Of the 1,200 affordable rental units, 250 will be set aside for Squamish Nation members, with the remainder serving residents of the City of Vancouver.
The 250 designated Nation member units will be managed by Hiyam Housing, the not-for-profit housing arm of the Squamish Nation.
CMHC estimates that BC needs to build approximately 1 million units of new housing between now and 2030 to restore overall affordability. Sen̓áḵw is a part of easing Vancouver's housing shortage – and the shortage in the province as a whole.
The Squamish Nation owns the lands as reserve lands – through an agreement with the federal government - and are not subject to the same development approvals process that is typically required in the City of Vancouver.
However, the Squamish Nation and City of Vancouver have worked together to enter into a Services Agreement in support of the Sen̓áḵw development. Services that will be provided by the City to the residents of the development include: fire, police, utilities, public works, and library services. The Squamish Nation will pay for these services through the assessment of property taxes on the Reserve at the same rates as other property owners in Vancouver.
The Squamish Nation has and will continue to work with the City of Vancouver on the development of this project to co-ordinate and execute their respective responsibilities under the servicing agreement.
Four phases of development are anticipated.
Construction has commenced and it is anticipated that construction on Phase 1 will take 3-4 years, with occupancy expected to start in 2025.
All four phases are targeting completion by 2030.
The project includes significant investment in improvements to surrounding infrastructure. Changes required include upgraded storm sewers, upgraded water connections, and transportation upgrades as well, including upgrades to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure surrounding the project.
The upgrades required were determined through an extensive negotiation process with the City as part of the Services Agreement, and included the submission of all required technical and engineering studies in a similar fashion to the negotiation of all other Services Agreements in the City of Vancouver.
Multiple infrastructure upgrades are being funded by the payments under the Services Agreement, including pedestrian and cycling improvements. These upgrades are being undertaken by the City of Vancouver and will follow the City's process.
Sen̓áḵw is designed to be a transit-oriented, car-light community. With this car-light emphasis, combined with the already highly restricted parking regulations for the surrounding Kits Point neighbourhood, the impact on the surrounding streets will be insignificant. It is anticipated that the development will add 7 to 8 cars per minute on average, spread across the two site access points during peak hours.
As a result, the upgrades negotiated through the Services Agreement are focused on accommodating the mobility needs for all travel modes including upgrades to cycling, pedestrian facilities and improved access to transit.
The contaminated soil removal onsite looks like the start of excavation; however, during this process there is less soil being removed and it is continually tested as it's being excavated. This soil is sent to sorting facilities depending on the test results. The contaminants at Sen̓áḵw are remnant of the uses between 1913 (when the land was taken from the Squamish Nation) and 2003 (when a portion of it was returned). The uses during this time were mostly industrial in nature, with CP rail holding a lease from the Government during this time.
The temporary bike lane built along West 1st is a temporary design, it was constructed and is being maintained by the City of Vancouver. The permanent configuration of this road is currently being designed by the City of Vancouver. The permanent construction will be funded completely by the Sen̓áḵw project through the Services Agreement. If you have any questions regarding the temporary bike path and configuration of West 1st, please direct them to the City of Vancouver through the 3-1-1 contact number.
Sen̓áḵw is designed with the intent to create a legacy for the Squamish Nation and the City of Vancouver.
This project will help set the Squamish Nation on a path towards complete economic independence. Its scale and scope has been designed to meet the needs of this economic legacy.
The project's buildings have a 100-year expected lifetime. As such, the project needs to consider the context of potential future development of the lands nearby, which are expected to increase in density significantly. In this context, the design and density of Sen̓áḵw is appropriate for the future of Vancouver. The project is also designed to be part of the solution to Vancouver's housing crisis. The size and scale of this project, with the delivery of 6,000 rental homes in a relatively short timeframe, will help ease Vancouver's rental housing shortage significantly.
This project demonstrates what can happen when First Nations generate value from the lands within their jurisdiction. It is not zero-sum: everyone stands to gain. This is reconciliation in action.
One of the key goals of the project is to seamlessly integrate art with built form. By taking cues from the values and traditions of the Nation, and inspiration from the Coast Salish art community – we are looking to blend these cultural narratives directly with the functional and tectonic language of architecture. This goes from the design of façade elements, interior finishes and signage, down to more tangible components such as site furnishings and suite entries. By embedding the Nation's rich cultural history into the site at all scales, we hope to form an interactive story that unfolds each day with the experience of all residents and visitors at Sen̓áḵw.
Sen̓áḵw will be one of Canada's first large-scale net zero operational carbon housing developments. There will be a district energy system on site developed in partnership with Creative Energy, that will utilize excess heat from adjacent Metro Vancouver infrastructure to provide a source of carbon free energy for the project. The buildings will also meet Step 3 of the BC Energy code and will feature highly efficient triple-glazed envelopes to minimize both thermal and noise transmission. The units will feature energy efficient appliances and fixtures to minimize water use and the entire development is designed to encourage alternative forms of transportation while reducing resident dependence on the automobile.
The commercial building in Phase 2 will leverage 45,000 square feet of mass timber construction, a material with 50% less embodied carbon than typical concrete construction.
Other sustainable features of the project include: the use of green roofs, permeable paving materials, native plantings, and rainwater capture and collection for irrigation.
Six acres, or 60% of the property, will be publicly accessible. These publicly accessible areas will include retail pavilions throughout the site and recreational spaces under the Burrard Bridge.
All of the open spaces on site will be publicly accessible. There are also various different types of publicly accessible programming being planned, including: gathering areas, sport uses, gardens, outdoor restaurants and cafes, a bike share hub, and more. The design of these areas is still in progress.
A new transit hub at the south end of the Burrard bridge will be created as part of the Sen̓áḵw project to support increased transit connectivity to the site. While current transportation infrastructure in the area prioritizes north-south connections, the new density from Sen̓áḵw offers the opportunity to improve east-west connectivity through the potential revitalization of the False Creek streetcar line, upgraded aqua bus and ferry services, and enhanced cycling options. Further, the project is located within walking distance of the new Broadway Subway extension.
In addition to the above, there are several active transportation infrastructure improvements in the area that will be supported through the development of this project. A comprehensive list of these improvements can be found in the service agreement document which is available on the City of Vancouver's website here: https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/senakw-development.aspx
The project will pay property taxes each year to the City of Vancouver, similar to all other developments within the City, as negotiated in the Services Agreement. The City will determine how to allocate the tax revenue it receives and make decisions on the allocation of these resources through its budgeting and consultation process with other levels of government. The project will also be providing a new, on-site daycare which will serve residents as well as the surrounding community.
Sen̓áḵw is not part of the City of Vancouver, and is not subject to the City's typical development approval process. Despite this, the Nation is voluntarily providing opportunities for dialogue with the surrounding community to learn more about the project.
The project's first public information session was held on October 3, 2022, with a recording of the session available for viewing on the project website. Monthly construction updates are posted on the Construction Timeline page of the Sen̓áḵw website at the start of each month.
Sen̓áḵw will be a new neighbourhood in the heart of Vancouver that will help redefine this area of the city. We will be neighbours for a long time. For this community to achieve its full potential we will need to be good neighbours to one another.
The Sen̓áḵw project team has committed to hosting update meetings as the project evolves and there are new updates to share. We hope that in the future these will be in-person at the Vancouver Museum, or somewhere else close by. Look out for the notification flyers in your mailbox and sign up on the website to be notified of additional meetings. We will be posting monthly updates on the Construction Timeline page of the Sen̓áḵw website at the start of each month. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions.