Whither New Westminster Quay?

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


new west quay.jpg
New Westminster's waterfront Quay is now the home to lots and lots of pidgeons

All is not well in my home community of New Westminster, BC. I recently brought my son down to the waterfront where only a year ago there was life and a Quay which housed a number of locally-owned mom and pop shops. Today, the New Westminster Quay is all but shut down and the waterfront has become a veritable ghost town.

Admittedly, even last year when the New Westminster Quay Market was open, you had a sense that what civic politicians once touted as the future of the city, was slowly turning into a nightmare.

Unlike the Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver or Granville Island in Vancouver, where successful markets have taken hold and been embraced by local residents, the New West Market simply didn't catch on. Rather, it has now become a symbol of a Mayor who more often than not appears more focused on past glories rather than focusing on developing a new and dynamic plan for the future for his city.

So what happened to New Westminster's waterfront, and why is it now a deadzone? I guess you could blame the situation on a number of factors beyond just simply pointing fingers at the current Mayor and his colleagues.

Here is what I believe are some critical factors that helped create the situation we have today:

  1. Poor transporation planning resulted in the City's waterfront being completely cut off from the rest of the community. There are a set of train tracks parallel to the waterfront which regularly cut off access between the Quay and the rest of downtown.
  2. Not enough residential development was approved in the downtown core. In fact, more people seemed concerned with saving decrepit heritage buildings on Columbia Street rather than focusing on getting new residents to move into the neighbourhood. As a result, the Quay district is almost devoid of young families who could represent the future of this community.
  3. A floating riverboat casino was championed by Council as an "economic development" tool for the waterfront. Unfortunately, the casino has closed and the paddlewheeler is now tied up to the wharf and rusting nicely.
  4. Despite years of navel-gazing about removing it, a massive multi-level concrete parkade remains as a blight on the waterfront. It you've never seen it, just think of the Alaska Viaduct in Seattle...but 10 times worse.
  5. The waterfront walkway stretching for several miles is broken apart at the Quay. That's because a large part of the waterfront remains private property. The City has recently moved to acquire some of that private land to make the final connection, but the construction of the walkway is still years away.

I could go on regarding a number of additional reasons why the New Westminster waterfront has become such a sad place to be lately...but I think you get the picture.

Last weekend, with the exception of a few pidgeons and a dozen or so folks walking their dogs, the Quay was all but abandoned. Most of the former merchants have been kicked out, and the inside of the Quay has been gutted. Despite this, there has yet to be any public pronouncement regarding the future direction of this property.

If the Quay is ever to thrive again, a lot more work needs to be done - and quickly. The City needs to work closely with the property owner and make sure everything humanly possible is done to help him redevelop this property. Otherwise, there is a significant risk the Quay will turn into a very undesirable place to be, even during daylight hours.

Unfortunately for the City and the property owner, the current discussion regarding the future of the Quay is happening in the midst of a world-wide recession. So the timing simply couldn't be worse.


Interesting to read your comments about Langley and New West. You seem to disapprove of how Langley has developed and yet it is successful. take a look at the Willowbrook Mall and you will see a busy shopping center. And the same goes for the developing area in Walnut Grove. People like the area. Your home town of New West had its time a century ago and has gone down hill ever since despite the numerous attempts by politicians and urban planners to resurrect this rundown urban disaster. Do you think that just possibly your bias is showing?

I believe the Quay situation is intended to be temporary while the new owner renovates inside. The old tenants were forced out to accommodate the renos. Only a few are left, including the pub and the Vancouver Circus School now teaching acrobatics upstairs. I agree that the timing is terrible with the recession etc. but if all goes according to plan, the Quay will be better when it reopens.

As for the waterfront issue, the city has just bought up a huge parcel of riverfront land, and this will be used for community and park space. Again, right now the riverfront is not well used, but the city is laying the groundwork for improvement.

Everybody hates that parkade! One fellow New Westie suggested that when the decision is made to finally demolish it, that it be turned into a community festival/charity fundraiser - donation buys you a few good whacks with the sledgehammer to help tear the eyesore down!

funny thing......my husband and I came to the quay last week-end, we were going to visit the market, have some lunch, go for a walk, and hit the casino....well....what a surprise we incountered.....like a ghost town.....quite shocking..

I recently moved to the Quay and am very disappointed in the lack of information regarding the Markets future. I see little passion in a city that has so much potential. It would be fabulous to have a Granville Island at my door step. We all know how thousands of people each day enjoy the energy that Granville Island exudes. Why is that so difficult to achieve here???

The city is not providing any motivation towards making the New Westminster Quay a success.

How sad is that???

Being a former NW resident, I can say first hand that the place is a dump. The Quay had mostly garbage for sale and the only people there were seniors spending the day drinking coffee.

Thankfully, now I just drive through the blight and don't have to go home to it.

Did someone ask what happened to the New Westminster Quay? It might be a dead zone because when you get off the Skytrain at the New Westminster Station you have to walk through one of the dirtiest places in the world. The area is ripe with drug addicts and homeless people. Try going for a walk down Columbia Street at night. I dare you.

I have been a resident of the Quay since it's inception.The market development was one of the main attractions and I enjoyed it for the years it was in operation.What a BLIGHT on the City's reputation to have let this attraction go into wreck and ruin!!!!
What is the problem???
Why not revitalize this attraction again?
The improvemnt of the IGA shopping area is welcomed but does NOT take the place of the river market !!!! !

New Westminster Quay will re-open this spring. The young developer who is reshaping the Quay is a friend of mine, and while I've not seen his plans I have extremely high confidence in his abilities.

New West folks deserve to have their Quay back and revitalized. Stay tuned as I think it's coming!

Main Problem: Trains! it makes the whole thing awkward, no to mention noisey, even in langly they figured out to stop those horns. even if they are at a crawl thos premadonnas blow them like its a race...make it look and feel good, we will come.

And yes the parkade, not to mention the parking in general.

Bright side: Once you've past the trains and ugly "East Side" of the Quay, its a rather nice walk down the board walk, in particular the gardens

I'm moving back, I love New West!

But we're temporarily living in the downtown core and I lay awake at night imagining my hands on the neck of that conductor who is completly "by the book" with the horn-blowing b.s.

The city has done a great job of welcoming development since we moved away 5 years ago but they still have some things to improve, the quay will be better than ever one day!

I don't understand why they didn't take into consideration Olympic Games for the reopening of the New West Quay Market??? That would be a perfect opportunity for re-launching the Market for the Olympic celebrations, torch relay, live entertainment, daily Olympic coverage, etc. What a waste!

How awful that such a historical city has gone so far down hill. The town planners should be utterly ashamed of them selves for allowing this to happen. All I see is dilapidated buildings in a city of affluent people. does nobody care?

I heard it was going to be made into condos (like everything else).

I heard they were almost out of money and virtually no-one (tenants) wants any part of the place.

The marketplace is being renovated. It has been rebranded as River Market at Westminster Quay, has a Donald's Market coming in as an anchor grocer, and hopefully will be ready to open later this year sometime.

As others mentioned, part of the waterfront pier has been bought by the city and is being developed into a park. Meanwhile, the Plaza 88 project around New Westminster skytrain station is progressing nicely, and there have been many other new residential projects completed in the area (including some new office and residential spaces on Columbia Street). New West is looking up - I think it's going to be a fabulous place in the near future!

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