A Profile of Vibrant Burnaby Heights

Burnaby Heights, or “The Heights” as it’s called, is a community in North Burnaby that’s lauded for its charm and accessibility.  The area boasts stunning views, great parks and trails, mom and pop shops, and no shortage of delicious eateries. It’s the kind of place where everyone seems to know each other.

The area is located between Boundary Road to the west, Gamma Avenue to the east, Hastings Street to the south and Burrard Inlet to the north. It’s a mere 15-minutes to downtown Vancouver — with fast access to commuter routes via Hastings street and to the North Shore over Second Narrows Bridge.

So, how did this bustling neighbourhood get to be what it is today?

A Look Back

Burnaby Heights came to life after Hastings Street opened in 1901 and the streetcar began operating to North Burnaby in 1908. After that, thousands of immigrants came to BC and merchants soon appeared.

The first grocer set up shop in the Heights on Alpha and Hastings, followed by a second one shortly after on Willingdon and Hastings. Before World War I, most of the stores were located near Boundary and Hastings. That included a butcher shop, a hardware shop, and a grocery store with a druggist, bakery and print store.

According to the Burnaby Heights’ website, from 1926-1954 “a number of factors helped shape North Burnaby. The Depression years from 1930-1939 lead to many bankruptcies and following that, World War II was a period of sacrifice, and growth did not begin again until the Post-war years. The newcomers to North Burnaby in this era were more varied than in previous times.”

This is when the North Burnaby Board of Trade was established and played a big role in the widening of Hastings Street, street lights, garbage disposal, and a number of activities aimed at improving living conditions in the community.

City of Burnaby Archives, Harold H. Johnston

Burnaby Heights Today

Today, the beauty of the Heights lies in its community feel and diversity. The vibrant commercial district has maintained its street-level shopping, but the number and range of shops have dramatically increased. The Heights has more than 350 shops, services and restaurants. The restaurants in the area serve dishes from around the world,  but if you like Italian, you’re in luck — many Italian restaurants are staples in the area, like Anton’s Pasta Bar and Cioffi’s Meat Market and Deli.

While the Heights is a popular place, that can bring challenges. The city’s main commercial streets are also the main commuter streets, which means that thousands of cars pass through every hour. In fact, in one day more than 30,000 vehicles drive through that area, according to a study by Slow Streets. It’s a street with two different functions — for one, it’s a major thoroughfare, but also serves as a walkable shopping street. The opening of the Evergreen SkyTrain line may reduce some of the traffic that uses Hastings Street as an East-West connector.

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A Community-Oriented Neighbourhood

Many Vancouverites are starting to catch on to the appeal of Burnaby Heights.  It’s increasingly being considered a desirable place to live in the Lower Mainland. Census data shows that the population in the area increased 14% from 1986 to 2006. However, the area tends to draw mostly families. It makes sense: several elementary schools and Burnaby North Secondary School are located in the neighbourhood and it’s close to downtown.

Home ownership in Burnaby Heights is high, with a split of 65% owners to 35% renters among those living in the area. While the area has a large number of heritage houses, condo developers are continuing to build new developments on popular­ Hastings Street.

The neighbourhood hosts a number of popular festivals and events. Burnaby’s biggest parade and street festival is known as “Hats Off Day,” where merchants acknowledge the community and their customers by taking their hats off in gratitude. It’s also where Giro di Burnaby is held, one of the best cycling events in the city.

Hats Off Day
Hats Off Day

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the many things to do and see in Burnaby Heights. Please feel free to reach out to me if you want to know more or are in need of a Burnaby mortgage broker.