Sapperton in bits

Columbia Street, showing the Sapperton area’s “Brewery District,” a nearly-complete development built on the site of a vanished industrial brewery. The head office of the regional transportation authority (TransLink) sits in the foreground. A new residential tower peeks out from behind.

An abandoned house, pre-1900, across looking across Columbia Street to the new Brewery District offices

Sapperton, as defined in the City of New Westminster maps, is a long rectangle with no adjacent residential neighbourhoods to the east or north. With recent development, Sapperton has become more self-contained and livable; proposed further development would add thousands more residents at the eastern edge, with unforeseeable results.  

As I drove to meet co-tourist Bob Smarz for a walk through Sapperton, an item on the radio reminded me that this is, in one sense, the birthplace of British Columbia. The Fraser Cemetery on the hill is the oldest in the Lower Mainland region: its dead include veterans of the American Civil War who moved to Canada, and presumably some Sappers, or British Royal Engineers, who landed on the Fraser River shore around 1860 to build B.C.’s first administrative capital. Continue reading

Managing traffic through New Westminster

Pattullo Bridge, Saturday afternoon

Pattullo Bridge, Saturday afternoon

New Westminster within the region, from the New West Master Transportation Plan

New Westminster within the region, from the New West Master Transportation Plan

New Westminster is at the crossroads of Metro Vancouver, with commuter traffic  pouring through from all directions and industrial zones in neighbouring cities around more than half its perimeter

The city government’s 2014 Master Transportation Plan reports 75,000 vehicles per day on the Pattullo crossing of the Fraser River, and 80,000 on the Queensborough crossing. This compares with fewer than 63,000 on the Lions Gate Bridge and fewer than 45,000 at the north end of the Massey Tunnel (provincial estimates for the same year.) Continue reading

A Queensborough-Annacis Island walking loop

Rosedale reduced

Annacis Island, an all-industrial zone located in the Fraser River, is noted (if at all) for its large wastewater treatment plant and worsening traffic congestion.

The five-kilometre long island is a less-than-obvious place to walk; co-tourist Robert Smarz and I went to find out if it is at all tolerable for humans. We were lucky to arrive on a Friday morning before a long weekend, when traffic was light, but we had to stay alert nonetheless, as the trucks are large and there are no sidewalks. Continue reading

Missing the boat in Queensborough

New Westminster Quay seen from Queensborough

New Westminster Quay seen from Queensborough

Queensborough lies south of an elevated section of B.C. Highway 91A. From that perspective, it looks like a jumble of townhomes built on leftover land.

Vintage-style housing, probably mid-'90s, South Dyke Road

Vintage-style housing, probably mid-1990s, South Dyke Road

Viewed more closely, the neighbourhood is pretty in spots,  with dramatic waterfront views of mainland New West. My co-tourist Fred Armstrong was pleased with his photos of river and clouds. This is a fragment of the City of New Westminster located on Lulu Island, with a long industrial history that has left a working railroad running down its main street. Continue reading

Downtown New West goes for the big time

Columbia Street

The riverfront city of New Westminster enjoyed a long history as an industrial and commercial hub separate from Vancouver. But as suburban populations and shopping malls grew to the east, north and south, New West lost something of its distinctive position and much of its commercial market.

The City government responded with repeated beautification efforts and a failed attempt to launch a new Granville Island development at Westminster Quay; but through 1980s and 90s, Columbia Street, the downtown area’s high street, grew increasingly frazzled and transient. Continue reading

Uptown: Density at the centre of Metro Van

Uptown New Westminster was built to function as a city centre, providing shopping and employment for the city of New West and adjacent pieces of Burnaby, but its success in that regard has been mixed.  It works better as an urban village for the thousands who live within walking distance.

Present-day Uptown dates from 1954, when a new Woodward’s Department Store opened on Sixth Avenue and began to suck the life from the old downtown on Columbia Street.  The New West Library followed, and diverse small retailers.  The commercial architecture is something like that of European towns that were bombed and rebuilt.  Functional, let’s call it.

My co-tourist in Uptown was my sister Ellen Heaney, who has worked at the library for 38 years.  We ate at the Belmont Bakery and Bistro, a good tea shop in the grandmotherly style.  The area is well set up for seniors, with transit, recreation, shops and cafes.  New Westminster has the highest concentration of rental dwellings in Metro Vancouver — 46 per cent of the housing stock, compared with about 25 per cent in neighbourhing Coquitlam, Richmond and Surrey. Continue reading