Accepting the shift in Burnaby Edmonds

Residential towers adjacent to the High Gate Centre, Edmonds

Residential towers at Highgate, Edmonds

With a population of 234,000, Burnaby is the third-largest city in Metro Vancouver and in British Columbia. It has no single centre. City Hall sits in science fiction isolation beside tranquil Deer Lake and its park. Commercial and residential growth is focused in “town centres,” three of which are anchored by enormous shopping malls: Brentwood, Lougheed and especially Metrotown.

Edmonds, a fourth town centre, is the runt of the litter. I travelled there to measure its shapeKingsway 3 and size in summer 2014,  landing at Greenford Ave. and setting out along the south side of  Kingsway. Other than a block of shops on the north side, Kingsway seemed kind of a mess, mixing automotive lots with ageing towers.

I held out hope that Edmonds Street, narrower and quieter, would offer  more charm. Edmonds and Kingsway was the site of the first Burnaby municipal hall, built in 1899 when this was still a rural district. Edmonds Street, five kilometres east of Metrotown, has some of the makings of a village shopping street, supported by decent public transit and a stock of nearby walk-up apartment buildings. Continue reading

On South Fraser Street

Fraser St 1 reduced

My niece recently left home and moved to a different part of the world. From counter-culture Commercial Drive, she made the six-kilometre trek to South Fraser Street and found an affordable rental apartment.

A rare example of side-street excitement, South Hill, Vancouver

A rare example of side-street excitement, South Hill, Vancouver

They say the resident mix is evolving, although there’s no influx of trendy cafes or retail stores at this stage. The South Fraser area is beyond walking distance from rapid transit; in Toronto, many such areas would be served by streetcars, but this is not Toronto. There’s a standard Vancouver high street, heavy on ethnic butcher shops. There’s a low-rise condo project under construction; limited multi-unit housing on the side streets, with a couple of seniors complexes a bit further away; and rental mini-houses popping up in the laneways, Kitsilano-style. The park on 41st Avenue is the home of little league baseball in Vancouver. Continue reading

“This is your next Metrotown”

The Surrey Central tower, housing SFU operations and the Fraser Health head office, seen from Holland Park

The Surrey Central tower, housing SFU operations and the Fraser Health head office, seen from Holland Park

 

Dianne Watts, the mayor of the City of Surrey since 2005, has brought a level of logic and discipline to her job that was lacking under her predecessor.

Residential towers on King George Boulevard, seen from Holland Park

Residential towers on King George Boulevard, seen from Holland Park

It’s interesting, then, to consider the logic behind Surrey Central, perhaps Ms. Watts’ pet project.  This burgeoning development combines civic functions, commercial expansion and residential towers, organized around the Surrey Central and King George rapid transit stations. Built in the middle of a neighbourhood that has struggled with crime and social issues, Surrey Central goes beyond the standard suburban facelift. It’s an attempt to build a commercial, civic and cultural hub worthy of a Great City. Continue reading

The village at Ladner

Ladner docks

If you decide to live in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, you may as well orient yourself to water or mountains.

You might choose the old fishing village of Ladner, in the south part of the municipality of Delta, because the weather is relatively dry (despite the snow on the day we visited.) Or because residents have worked to develop a prosperous, safe sense of community. Continue reading

The Main Street jumble

Just-off-the-high-street commercial space - a chocolaterie on Twenty-First Avenue

Just off the high street: a chocolaterie on 21st Avenue

The urban village, the subject of frequent posts on this site, is a walkable area that combines a diversity of services and housing choices with adequate transit.

Setting the boundaries of any urban village is partly a guessing game. By one convention, the average body will walk up to 1,000 metres to get access to village services. But which services? What’s in, and what’s out? In the City of Vancouver, with the most complex development patterns in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, villages often overlap. This is certainly true of the neighbourhoods up and down Main Street: one of my favourite streets, but the result is difficult to photograph and to describe. Continue reading

Searching for controversy in the West End plan

Projected development in Vancouver's West End. The blue towers, mostly on Georgia and Burrard, represent future densification.

Projected development in Vancouver’s West End. The blue towers, mostly on Georgia and Burrard, represent future densification.

Two recent posts on Fraseropolis focused on Vancouver neighbourhoods — Grandview-Woodlands and Marpole — where resident activists have forced big delays in the City government’s area planning process.

Denman Street 2, Vancouver reducedIn the West End, however, City Council moved ahead with the adoption of a new community plan in late November. This area is the finest urban village in British Columbia for access to services and urban life, at least as measured by the Fraseropolis index, and the City plan is advertised as a tool for preserving and enhancing these qualities. (The plan actually defines three West End villages — Robson, Denman, and Davie — but for an outsider from the deep ‘burbs, they blend comfortably together.) Continue reading

Conflict in Marpole

apartments 1

Urban affairs journalist and blogger Frances Bula recently noted a heating up of resistance to densification in Metro Vancouver, especially in the City of Vancouver. A consortium of neighbourhood interests called “Liveable Vancouver” is spotlightlighting the controversy in Marpole, where the City government is trying to develop a plan to accommodate a forecast population increase. On a recent visit, we saw many lawn signs protesting against rezoning; a Marpole neighourhood group claims there are thousands.

The City’s current concept would protect Marpole’s significant stock of rental housing; enable townhome construction on many of the residential streets where there is now single-family housing; and allow condo apartments or towers on the arterial streets. Continue reading