Port Moody’s NewPort Village is evidence of a substantial market for high-density living in the suburbs of B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
Bosa, the project developer, opened NewPort’s first mixed-use buildings about 1997, squeezing them against the butt end of an existing shopping centre. The owners of the Heritage Mountain plaza clearly refused to play ball with Bosa; but NewPort’s Whistler-style streetscape, complete with cute upmarket shops, proved popular with consumers and home buyers from the start. Within a few years the village was ringed with apartment towers.
The NewPort gift shops have a regional tourist appeal; but NewPort and the Heritage Mountain plaza also combine, unharmoniously, to provide local residents with useful services such as a supermarket, pharmacy, professional offices and a selection of cafes. Outside the core of the village there’s a variety of housing including a seniors’ residence and rentable secondary suites in detached homes. Just to the west is a municipal precinct with recreation facilities and access to a marvelous trail along the Burrard Inlet. Eagle Ridge Hospital, with an emergency unit, clinics and long-term care, is across the road from NewPort on the northeast.
My co-tourist was Lawrence Wang, a colleague who went to high school in Port Moody and lived in the city for 25 years before moving to Coquitlam. We had coffee at Starbucks, and then Lawrence led me across Ioco Road to a second high-density village that has grown up in the past five years. Onni’s Suter Brook Village is a “clone” of NewPort, says Lawrence; both support a supermarket, a Starbucks, a pub, an optician, a bank and a ladies’ clothing boutique. A cluster of towers tapering off into a neighbourhood of townhomes, Suter Brook has a slightly Yaletown feel; it has a government liquor store; and it puts up a giant tree at Christmas, which NewPort does not.
NewPort/Suter Brook is reasonably well served by transit, and the situation will improve when the Inlet Centre Station opens up nearby on the new Evergreen Line (2016). But the wide and busy roads that divide NewPort from Suter Brook make the walking connection less than ideal.
In fact, if you consult the city website or the commercial websites for NewPort and Suter Brook, there is no sign that anyone has considered this area as an integrated human community. The city’s Official Community Plan groups the mixed-use zones, the municipal precinct and some housing on the north side into a planning area called “Inlet Centre;” but the discussion is all about densities, and how the area functions in relation to other areas, with almost no comment on how the decisions made to date might affect the people who live here.
Much of the NewPort and Suter Brook development took place under Joe Trasolini, Port Moody’s long-time mayor. Soon after his retirement from local politics in late 2011, Port Moody voters sent him to the British Columbia legislature in a by-election. If the BC New Democrats win the next provincial general election, there is some chance that Mr. Trasolini will become the minister for municipal affairs, with at least notional responsibility for urban planning standards.
[2013 note: Mr. Trasolini was defeated in May 2013 in his bid for provincial office.]
(This is post #7 in our Urban Villages series.)