Revisiting fabulous Cloverdale

Street 1

I recently returned to Cloverdale for a solo Sunday afternoon tour, three years after my first report on this historic commuter railway village in Metro Vancouver.

A local paper had suggested the business association might be falling apart, with the cancellation of major public events in 2015 due to a “lack of sponsorships.”

The eastern side of Surrey, British Columbia’s second largest city, has developed rapidly in recent years. Cloverdale’s special status as a somewhat self-contained urban village is acknowledged in the city government’s area plan (2000) and updated land use map (2013). Eight or 10 blocks of adjacent medium-density housing provide the beginnings of a customer base for local merchants and professional services. A minor campus of Kwantlen University is a 10- to 15-minute walk from the main street shops and restaurants.

However, it’s a difficult site: provincial highways on the south and west sides, with farmland beyond the highway to the south; and a sprawling fairground to the north that stands empty in most months (except, perhaps, for the ghosts of rodeos past.) As noted in my previous post, the city government has not been especially helpful, approving the construction of automobile-dependent strip malls not far away.

The big hope for the village, a planned mixed-use development on the west side, was ready to go in 2012. However, the land is still sitting idle, as shown below.

West Cloverdale compressedStreet 2The good news, I think, is that the village showed signs of life on a Sunday afternoon. There were antique shops open, the café-bakery looked busy, and a new pub had  customers. (There are people in the photo to the left, if you look closely.) The condition of the commercial buildings is slightly better than in 2012, although a railway-station-style pub project at the north end of the main street has failed.

Development has stalled for now, although there’s lots of room for residential growth on the vacant land shown above and in parts of the village core. There’s half-hourly public transit east and west; it struck me that increasing the frequency of connections to jobs and shopping might bring more residents, but this seems unlikely in the near term.

As with some other historic settlements in the suburbs, Cloverdale village appears to be on hold, waiting for a major developer or employer, or the real estate group mind, to fully recognize it as an architectural and character asset.

[This is an update of post #1 in our Urban Villages series. An updated index has been linked to the “Urban Villages” page.] 

shops 2

Shops 3

Fort Langley evolves

shops 1

For more than a generation, historic Fort Langley has evolved as a day-trip destination for people in eastern Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. It features a walkable main street of coffee shops and art galleries, built alongside an 1840s-era  national historic site.

Fort Langley plan 2006In recent years Fort Langley has taken a leap forward in both liveability and visitor interest. The Bedford Landing riverside development, shown in gold on the map to the left, includes an inviting walking trail system and new commercial and cultural space. The emergence of Bedford Landing and smaller developments has pushed the Fort Langley population up from the 2,700 maximum contemplated in the 1987 area plan, to something over 3,700, going by the municipal estimate.

The Fort Langley Community Hall, often used as a backdrop in film and TV. Photo from the website of the Birth of B.C. Gallery, located just south on Glover Road.

The Fort Langley Community Hall, often used as a backdrop in film and TV. Photo from the website of the Birthplace of B.C. Gallery, located just south on Glover Road.

The higher population and continued tourist traffic is driving the growth of business — with new gift shops and clothing boutiques, and, more important to residents, a wider range of personal and professional services. I would guess that accountants and  doctors moving into the area are setting up shop close to home, and attracting customers into the village from adjacent suburbs.

As suburban residential locations go, Fort Langley is highly desirable for those who can afford it. A 2014 municipal staff report states that Fort Langley has the highest proportion of high-income households of any neighbourhood in the Township of Langley, with 19 per cent collecting more than $150,000 a year; and the lowest proportion of low-income households, with just five per cent living on under $20,000 per year. Factors in this imbalance would include the cost of housing and the lack of social and community services.

Historic Fort Langley, a national historic site. Photo from Tourism Langley.

Historic Fort Langley, a national historic site. Photo from Tourism Langley.

As we ate at The Lamplighter on Glover Road, my co-tourist Vicki and I wondered why Fort Langley has succeeded as a walkable arts and tourism quarter when other  outer-suburban villages (Mission City, Maple Ridge, Abbotsford)  have tried and failed. There is the historic fort, of course, but if Wikipedia is correct (1,200 visitors per average week, including schoolkids) this can’t be the only explanation. There are also aesthetic design controls, a riverside location…and significantly, a lack of visible poverty.

It makes sense for local governments to locate social housing and social services within walkable villages, but the presence of homeless and marginalized people creates tensions with merchants and customers. A Maple Ridge council candidate told me some years ago that she avoided the city’s downtown because she couldn’t stand to look at homeless people. Concerns around transience, street addiction and crime and dominated the 2014 election in Maple Ridge (2014) and may have led to the defeat of the incumbent mayor. Fort Langley, through location and planned exclusivity, has  avoided this kind of messy controversy.

[This is post #27 in our Urban Villages series.]

Expanding the village core: new medical/professional office space on 96 Avenue

Expanding the village core: new medical/professional office space on 96 Avenue

River-facing Bedford Landing apartments just west of Fort Langley's main street

River-facing Bedford Landing apartments just west of Fort Langley’s main street

An open door for offshore home buyers

Kitsilano, City of Vancouver West

Kitsilano, City of Vancouver West

New real estate numbers for British Columbia’s Lower Mainland suggest that the long rise in house prices is accelerating in the City of Vancouver and adjacent suburbs.

In all these areas, the benchmark price for a detached home has surpassed a million dollars. This is far beyond the reach of most working families, with troubling side effects. Continue reading

An urban hub for Metro Vancouver’s northeast sector

The Coquitlam urban core, from a 2013 municipal presentation. City Hall is upper left.

The Coquitlam urban core, from a 2013 municipal presentation. City Hall is the low-rise complex upper left. At least three new towers have joined this set within a 16-month period.

The streets behind the Coquitlam Centre mall feel like a pop-up city, construction dust still filtering down from unfinished towers.

Coquitlam transit-oriented areasThis is the core of a designated Coquitlam City Centre planning area, slated to double in population to more than 50,000 in the next two decades. The municipal government’s area plan sees the densified city centre as the future “arts, entertainment and cultural focal point for the Northeast Sector of the Metro Vancouver Region.” The northeast sector, by most definitions, stretches from Port Moody to Maple Ridge, and will house (hypothetically) half a million people by 2040.

The Coquitlam urban core is organized to feed off the Evergreen rapid transit line, still under construction. The neighbourhood is not quite as new as it feels; there have been several years of tower development with rapid transit in mind, as noted in one of my earliest posts.  City planners and politicians deserve credit for anticipating the transformative effects rapid transit will have.

2015 Browns croppedHowever, the  core is only stating to show a flicker of personality as street-level commercial services take hold and create some mental distance between these tower-dominated streets and the nearby mall. As in Burnaby’s Metrotown precinct, which also continues to sprout towers, the names on the restaurants and professional offices suggest a heavy influx of Asian immigrants, especially Chinese.

I recruited our friend David Jung to come along as co-tourist on a Sunday afternoon tour. David once lived in nearby residential area, before any of the towers were built, and now lives up the hill on the Westwood Plateau. We looked at the street layout and the shop fronts, and also for evidence of poverty, working from a 2014 child poverty map of Metro Vancouver that shows a high concentration of low-income residents in the Coquitlam core, as in Metrotown..

Detail from the Metro Vancouver child poverty map, derived from Statistics Canada data. The black wedge corresponds to the Coquitlam city core.

Detail from the Metro Vancouver child poverty map, derived from Statistics Canada data. The black wedge corresponds to the Coquitlam city core.

We did not see the homeless or the addicted, as you might on any afternoon in my Maple Ridge neighbourhood; and we did not see agencies to serve such people. In fact, a scan of Coquitlam social service agencies shows a concentration in a much different part of the city, eight or nine kilometres south and west.

I suggested the poverty in the core might be transitional; Asian immigrants working at low wages, living in close quarters but saving money. David’s parents took an  apartment in Vancouver’s Chinatown when they first arrived in Canada more than half a century ago. If they immigrated today, they might land in Coquitlam. David had a supplemental thought, suggesting that many Asian residents draw financial support from families across the water and don’t report income in Canada.

2015 Chinese sign compressed

The Evergreen Line above Pinetree Way, seen from outside the public library

The Evergreen Line above Pinetree Way, seen from outside the public library

A boarded-up house east of Pinetree, one of a row waiting for redevelopment. On the day of our tour, someone had set fire to the house.

A boarded-up house east of Pinetree, one of a row waiting for redevelopment. On the day of our tour, someone had set fire to the house.

The pace of change here is astonishing. The concrete light-rail guideway appeared almost overnight in early 2015. There’s more here than I expected. Coquitlam, one of British Columbia’s largest cities, has always lacked focus. It seems this will change. I’ll return soon to look at the wider City Centre area — the college, the lake, the quieter residential streets — that might blend together someday to make this a community.

The East Village — “the heart of East Van”?

New commercial + 3 structure at Hastings and Templeton, Vancouver

New commercial + 3 structure at Hastings and Templeton, Vancouver

Vancouver’s Hastings Street east from Templeton Street is seeing rapid change. Ageing one-story shopfronts are going down in favour of four-storey complexes like the one pictured above.

I walked through here recently with my sister Morna, who has lived close by for more  than thirty years. The big fruit and vegetable stores are hanging on, but the Italian deli is gone, and the shoe stores. Instead, the trend is to latte bars and niche veterinary practices. It’s becoming more like Kitsilano, an affluent and sought-after quarter over towards the University of British Columbia. Continue reading

Child poverty in Metro Vancouver

A detail from the 2014 Child Poverty Report Card. Areas of highest concentration (over 40 per cent) include a set of communities east of Vancouver's downtown, Squamish territory at the north end of the Lions Gate Bridge, and Metrotown in Burnaby.

A detail from the 2014 Child Poverty Report Card. Areas of highest concentration (over 40 per cent) include a set of communities east of Vancouver’s downtown, Squamish territory at the north end of the Lions Gate Bridge, and Metrotown in Burnaby.

Some Canadians are much healthier than others. Poor health outcomes are more likely among: children and families living in poverty; the working poor; the unemployed/underemployed; those with limited education and/or low literacy; Aboriginal and remote populations; newcomers; persons suffering from social exclusion; the homeless; and those who have difficulty securing affordable housing. — Final Report of the Senate Subcommittee on Population Health, 2009

In late 2014, the BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition issued a Child Poverty Report Card organized into 10 fact sheets, including a fact sheet on Metro Vancouver.

For this website, the takeaway is that poverty thrives in all parts of Metro Vancouver, though it may not show up at street level.  Besides the often-documented Downtown Eastside, there are zones where poverty is common in Richmond, Burnaby (including Edmonds, discussed in our February 2 post), Surrey, Langley — and in fact, in almost any urban centre. Continue reading

The mayors’ case for a transportation tax

 

Replacement of the 1937 Pattulo Bridge over the Fraser River is part of the Metro Vancouver mayors' long-term plan. The photo is taken from the plan document.

Replacement of the 1937 Pattulo Bridge over the Fraser River is part of the Metro Vancouver mayors’ long-term plan. The photo is taken from the plan document.

Vicki and I attended a luncheon last week to hear from advocates for a Metro Vancouver transportation tax. The tax proposal will be the subject a ballot going out to households in March.

In 2014, regional transit mayors issued a long-term plan for upgrades to rapid transit, bus transit, regional roads and HandiDart service. The British Columbia government responded that any proposal for new fees or taxes to support the plan must be tested in a referendum. (The parties use the term “plebiscite”, but the difference seems academic.) Continue reading