Measured by its regional media profile, Port Coquitlam is a city that most people ignore. There’s not really a port here, as I mentioned in an earlier post; there are railyards, trucking companies, a jail, and a recent proliferation of big box stores on the eastern fringe.
Up close, though, the local government has done a decent job of delivering on its 1998 plan to build an urban village around the downtown core. The plan is more detailed than most of its counterparts around the region, and more focused on the value of village residential development.
“Residential neighbourhoods are one of the key foundations of a healthy and dynamic downtown. A community that has the fortune of livable and strong neighbourhoods surrounding a core of retail, business, civic and recreation activities creates a stable population for continuing growth and prosperity.”
The new housing is built around an arts and community centre complex and a diversified business area. Much of the commercial architecture is 60s-to-80s schlock; but one of my co-tourists, Dan Burke, remarked that “You don’t see a lot of business turnover in PoCo; it’s very stable.”
Dan and his wife Shelley have lived on the north side of Port Coquitlam for 25 years. They appreciate the variety of retail services in the village, and the pedestrian traffic that’s generated by the new apartment developments. We had lunch at the Amigo Cafe, an old-style diner; we walked from there through the City Hall gardens and looked in briefly on an art show opening. Dan and Shelley don’t think the big box stores will kill all this. They have praise for a late long-time mayor, Len Traboulay, who sponsored the downtown plan, and also the city’s marvelous network of recreational trails. They like the current mayor, Greg Moore, who also chairs the Metro Vancouver regional authority. They grumble, however, about a new residential tower just north of the village, because it’s out of scale and has created traffic issues.
The tower, arguably, has been spawned by rapid transit; it is a short walk from the West Coast Express commuter rail station, and a short bus ride from the future Evergreen rapid transit line, scheduled to go into service in 2016. A look at the minutes of the City’s Smart Growth Committee (nice title, although its function and level of effectiveness are not clear) shows that more towers are proposed. Are the towers compatible with an urban village plan?
[This is post #11 in our Urban Villages series. By the way, the "urban village" is treated on this site not as a commercial area, but as a walkable mixed-use area centred on a set of services. Livability in an urban village is a function of housing availability for a diversity of folks, public transit, civic amenities and incentives to walk and cycle as well as a range of commercial services.]