Who would choose a mall parking lot as a place to take a walk?
By the common definition, Lougheed Town Centre is a second-tier mall at the eastern edge of the city of Burnaby, with a Walmart and a London Drugs. Alternatively, it’s a nearby rapid transit station and a different set of parking lots.
In the Metro planner’s vision, however, Lougheed Town Centre is a biggish urban node with a wide range of services, a mix of housing and the beginnings of a trail network. I came here to find green space on a rainy day, meeting co-tourist Lawrence Wang; and again, on a drier day, with my sister Ellen Heaney. She has lived just inside the planner-defined bounds of the zone for 25 years, but had never walked the circle route.
I’ll add Lougheed Town to the Fraseropolis urban villages list, although I find it uninviting. The main street, North Road, and the intersecting Lougheed Highway are so noisy and aesthetically messy as to be almost pedestrian-proof. North Road marks a split and a planning mismatch between two large jurisdictions, Burnaby and Coquitlam. More of the commercial and tower development sits on the Burnaby side — and also more of the people services and all of the trails.
So we begin. Starting west from North Road and bypassing the Lougheed Town Centre mall, we entered Cameron Park, which extends behind a big public library and a recreation centre that looks ripe for expansion. There are trail options to the north coming out of the park but nothing official to the south, so we continued on residential streets past some fine examples of 1970s low-end town housing.
From the driveway leading up to the Burnaby Mountain high school, a new pathway runs south to a park space sitting underneath the Skytrain line. The main trail from here runs under the Lougheed Highway. If you turn west, it goes all the way to the Burnaby Lake regional park. But we turned east, toward North Road, and found ourselves on Government Street, looking up at a long row of newish apartments and townhomes. This section is visually okay, but insistently noisy. You shout when you talk, because you’re walking parallel to the seven-lane Trans-Canada freeway.
Where Government Street swivelled north we continued east on a well-treed pathway under the freeway wall. We emerged at North Road Plaza, a retail-commercial service centre for the large (apparently) Korean-speaking population living nearby on both sides of the municipal divide.
Is this getting too exciting? We’ve arrived at the Coquitlam border, and you can relax. There’s no attempt at a trail system on the Coquitlam side. I would advise tourists to take shelter from the North Road traffic, and look for a parallel course on Westview Street and then Whiting Way. This is the part of Coquitlam’s Lougheed district, and it’s quite skinny. Before long we arrive near the start of our walk at Cameron and North.
Coquitlam has opened the planning books to consider densification further east from North Road. The combined Lougheed-Burquitlam planning area will see renewed development pressures with the opening of the Evergreen rapid transit line, now scheduled for spring 2017. The old shopping centre at North and Como Lake Road has been levelled, and new low-rise condo buildings are popping up on Foster, replacing the affordable rental stock. The City of Coquitlam is examining long-term options for ten sub-areas, including the “Lougheed Neighbourhood Centre,” the area of pavement across from the mall in Burnaby.
Burnaby is also responding to the Evergreen transit development, pursuing the development of a new concept plan for the “Lougheed Core Area” — the Lougheed mall, transit station and nearby parking lots. Both municipalities have recognized the need to improve the lot of pedestrians at the North Road/Lougheed traffic circus. Burnaby, going further, expresses hopes for a “vibrant, transit-connected, mixed-use area with diverse housing, employment, service, and recreation opportunities.” Folks might have thought that this would be part of the first rapid transit installation in 2000, but better late than never.
We’ll return to Lougheed Town Centre when these planning processes are further advanced.
[This is post #30 in our Urban Villages series.]