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 [from the federal census, 2011), compared with about 25 per cent in neighbourhing Coquitlam, Richmond and Surrey. Continue reading →