Pitt Meadows 2 – Uptown (aka Downtown)

An apartment/commercial complex at Harris Road and Ford Road in Pitt Meadows. This was built in about 2010 on the site of a failed shopping plaza

Pitt Meadows City Hall, at the southern end of the commercial zone

Municipal governments in B.C. have a limited menu of responsibilities. They send delegates to regional bodies to haggle over various things, but their direct control is restricted mostly to fire protection, local streets, community recreation space and urban land use. And policing, in the odd handful of municipalities that have opted out of using the federal Mounted Police…

Anyway, the urban land use decisions have the most durable consequences. Each of the close to 30 cities and towns in the Lower Mainland has a slightly different look and feel, based on local council votes that took place 20, 30 or more years ago. This includes how much space to devote to pavement, but more important are the decisions around where to locate commercial development and how to connect it to neighbourhoods.

Pitt Meadows, with a population of 20,000, has an urban area that is bounded on the west and north by rich farming lands. Rhetorically, in my experience, Pitt Meadows councils have talked a lot about preserving a “rural feeling” and respecting the sanctity of the single-family lot.

However, the same councils have smuggled an urban village into place, very gradually, over a generation or more. This is despite the apparent lack of a detailed central area plan, or even a widely recognized name for the area. Town Centre? Downtown? Uptown? The 2009 official city plan uses Town Centre, and then devotes less than a page to the town centre’s function.

However, there’s a range of densified housing choice including a recent seniors’ complex, housing co-ops, condo apartments, and townhomes, and an interesting mix of retail services including a bookstore, independent travel agent and microbrew tasting lounge. The commercial area is split, inconveniently, by a busy rail line. To make the crossing, pedestrian visitors (and residents) are confined to Harris Road just at its noisiest stretch.

Co-tourist R.J. Smarz and I took a short walking tour south and east from City Hall that included a pleasant wooded trail. We had lunch on a Saturday at the Jolly Coachman pub, and it was very good.

[This is post #36 in our Urban Villages series.]

On 191B Street, a block off Harris Road. The tenants in this quirky shopping centre include Artista Pizza (recommended).

Ford Road east of Harris

Japanese restaurant, off Harris Road

A newly completed commercial/residential complex on Harris at 124 Ave.


Pitt Meadows 1 — Osprey Village

The recently completed commercial core of Osprey Village. The brick-faced structure in the foreground was approved as a live-work development, with shopowners living above their businesses.

The city of Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, population 18,500, has shown how a small municipality can function effectively in a large urban region. Residents enjoy relatively low property taxes and much the same services as  Surrey, a nearby city with a half a million people.

Osprey Village, a Pitt Meadows neighbourhood overlooking the Fraser River, was built over the past decade with patience and (I think) good taste, at least compared with the competition in other Fraseropolis suburbs. The commercial zone pictured above is short on everyday services and heavy on dog spas and craft galleries, but it’s attractive and cozy, and is now a mini-tourism destination for cyclists and for families looking to walk along the river. (Osprey is at the western end of a regional pathway network, and not far from the Golden Ears Bridge; cycling links to Coquitlam and Langley are excellent.) The 2009 land use plan adopted by City Council in 2009 provides for up to 25 live-work units on the main street or immediately behind, and the community hall by the river park acts as a regional conference centres, so there’s continued pedestrian traffic in the Osprey village centre even on weekdays. Continue reading