The neighbourhood business association promotes Steveston as a place to visit, with its waterfront, cafes and gift shops. Co-tourist Robert Smarz and I walked the ocean-facing pathway on the west side of the community and enjoyed lunch at the Shady Island pub on the boardwalk; we didn’t have time to stop at the Georgia Cannery National Historic Site, so there’s more to see.
But the designated core is attracting new residents as well as visitors, part of a general upscaling of Vancouver-area real estate. Postwar bungalows on the back streets are disappearing in favour of low-rise apartment buildings of three and four storeys. There are now enough essential services in place — such as food markets and professional offices — to make this a livable urban village with an affluent tinge. Rapid transit to downtown Vancouver is about 20 minutes away by bus, and bus service is frequent.
The City of Richmond’s 2009 area plan sets development restrictions that are intended to maintain a heritage flavour in the core area and the modest scale of the street-facing shops. The economic driver for the original village, the working harbour and adjacent industrial lands, is under some stress; you still see a large fishing fleet moored near the boardwalk, but the harbour-related industrial properties are being converted for mixed use with housing, more shops and parking garages.
If you’re leaving old Steveston in your own vehicle, you may find a severe traffic backup eastbound on Steveston Highway. This is related to the snarl-up at the entrance to the George Massey Tunnel on Highway 99, a problem that is to be addressed with a planned replacement of the tunnel by about 2022. The City is opposed to the provincial government’s 10-lane bridge scheme for environmental and planning reasons, but at this point the government is forging ahead.
[This is post #34 in our Urban Villages series.]