A major expansion incorporating additional academic space and new student housing is planned for Douglas College immediately west of its main campus in downtown New Westminster.
The post-secondary institution has submitted a preliminary application to the municipal government to develop the sloped, vacant site at 808 Royal Avenue, currently partially occupied by a surface parking lot for the college. The site is a five-minute walk from SkyTrain’s New Westminster Station.
At this early stage of the proposal, Douglas College has only outlined the potential uses, form, and density of the project. Finer architectural details will be provided in later stages of the application process.
The proposal calls for a 215-ft-tall, 18-storey, L-shaped tower, with 217,000 sq ft of academic space in a portion of the lower 10 levels and 121,000 sq ft of student housing in a portion of the upper 13 levels for a total floor area of 338,000 sq ft. This would give the project a floor area ratio density of a floor area that is 8.62 times larger than the 39,200 sq ft lot at the southwest corner of the intersection of Royal Avenue and Eighth Street.
Academic levels would be oriented to the south side towards Eighth Street, while student residences would face the north and east sides of the site.
The new academic space would have 350 employees upon opening, including the transfer of some employees from the satellite campus at the 68,000 sq ft of leased space in the nearby Anvil Office Tower at 777 Columbia Street, which opened in 2018. The steady expansion of programs at the new building over its first decade will grow employment by a further 250 employees.
A total of 244 beds of student housing are proposed, with 96% of the units featuring shared washroom or common kitchen facilities, including 126 beds in a traditional single unit with shared washrooms and 99 beds in a semi-suite unit that includes a shared washroom with the adjacent semi-suite. Amenity spaces are planned for the lower rooftops of the building, over the academic spaces.
Douglas College is proposing to construct a significant portion of this building using mass timber components. While the lower levels for the academic space would use concrete construction, the student residences above would use encapsulated mass timber construction.
It is noted that building 12 floors using mass timber methods over concrete floors would require special consideration as it goes beyond the current limitations of wood construction under the BC Building Code.
Underground levels will contain 344 vehicle parking stalls — including 190 stalls for student residents and 188 stalls for academic uses — and 303 bike parking spaces.
The application suggests at least a portion of the construction costs would be financed by the provincial government, specifically the 2018-initiated provincial program that offers post-secondary institutions the ability to borrow lost-cost funding to complete new student housing projects.
Prior to the pandemic, Douglas College recorded a combined total of 25,000 students across all of its campuses, and its New Westminster campus alone employed over 1,350 people.