Planning for renewal in Chilliwack

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Vicki and I are loyal to Chilliwack. We worked with the City on community planning  projects in the 2000s and were impressed with Council’s vision and respect for citizen participation.

So on a recent Saturday visit with co-tourist Dominic Kotarski, I was saddened to see a downtown core on hold, with vacant lands, empty storefronts and few people on the streets. Continue reading

A sort of urban village at Coquitlam City Centre

Lafarge Lake, at the edge of the new Coquitlam downtown

Lafarge Lake, at the edge of the new Coquitlam downtown

The walkable urban village at Coquitlam City Centre has emerged recently, with a new area of residential towers, neighbourhood offices and cafes, bridging Douglas College and an area of older housing to the vehicle-dominated Coquitlam Centre megamall.

The Regional City Centre precinct is projected to reach a population of something around 50,000 by 2041, forming a commercial and cultural hub for the northeast part of Metro Vancouver. Continue reading

Oak Bay: behind the tweed curtain

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The District of Oak Bay, population 18,000, is the third most heavily taxed municipality in British Columbia, of 161 listed in provincial tax tables. Property taxes on a representative house are 29 per cent higher than in the City of Victoria next door, and close to 90 per cent higher than the B.C. average.

The numbers suggest an affluent population prepared to pay for services such as an  independent police force — as in the highest taxed local jurisdiction in B.C., the District of West Vancouver. Continue reading

Revisiting fabulous Cloverdale

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I recently returned to Cloverdale for a solo Sunday afternoon tour, three years after my first report on this historic commuter railway village in Metro Vancouver.

A local paper had suggested the business association might be falling apart, with the cancellation of major public events in 2015 due to a “lack of sponsorships.”

The eastern side of Surrey, British Columbia’s second largest city, has developed rapidly in recent years. Cloverdale’s special status as a somewhat self-contained urban village is acknowledged in the city government’s area plan (2000) and updated land use map (2013). Eight or 10 blocks of adjacent medium-density housing provide the beginnings of a customer base for local merchants and professional services. A minor campus of Kwantlen University is a 10- to 15-minute walk from the main street shops and restaurants. Continue reading

Fort Langley evolves

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For more than a generation, historic Fort Langley has evolved as a day-trip destination for people in eastern Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. It features a walkable main street of coffee shops and art galleries, built alongside an 1840s-era  national historic site.

Fort Langley plan 2006In recent years Fort Langley has taken a leap forward in both liveability and visitor interest. The Bedford Landing riverside development, shown in gold on the map to the left, includes an inviting walking trail system and new commercial and cultural space. The emergence of Bedford Landing and smaller developments has pushed the Fort Langley population up from the 2,700 maximum contemplated in the 1987 area plan, to something over 3,700, going by the municipal estimate. Continue reading

The East Village — “the heart of East Van”?

New commercial + 3 structure at Hastings and Templeton, Vancouver

New commercial + 3 structure at Hastings and Templeton, Vancouver

Vancouver’s Hastings Street east from Templeton Street is seeing rapid change. Ageing one-story shopfronts are going down in favour of four-storey complexes like the one pictured above.

I walked through here recently with my sister Morna, who has lived close by for more  than thirty years. The big fruit and vegetable stores are hanging on, but the Italian deli is gone, and the shoe stores. Instead, the trend is to latte bars and niche veterinary practices. It’s becoming more like Kitsilano, an affluent and sought-after quarter over towards the University of British Columbia. Continue reading

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