A slideshow of New Westminster's changing downtown
It's been almost a decade since I moved to the historic neighbourhood of Queens Park in New Westminster. My wife and I previously lived in a quaint 1940's home in the Collingwood area of East Vancouver. When I first moved out here, my Vancouver friends thought I lost all my marbles. "Why would you move out there" they said. One friend commented "Do you realize you'll need to purchase a second car to make it all work?"
I'm pleased that not only have we managed to remain a one car family, we are probably driving less now than when we lived in Vancouver. That's mainly because our Queen's Park home is located only blocks from both the Downtown and Uptown business districts. As a result, we can walk to almost any retailer or amenity we need within 15 minutes. Hair stylists, barbers, drug and grocery stores, bakeries, banks, restaurants are all within a stone's throw of our home. In almost every instance, driving to a local retailer is much more of a pain than it is to walk there. So that's exactly what we do on a weekly basis.
New Westminster also has some of the best transit service outside of Vancouver. With only 50,000 people, it boasts five SkyTrain stations and top-notch bus service that connects each of them. For a daily transit user like myself who makes his way out to the UBC peninsula, it's a no-brainer to hop on rapid transit. Even though it is a lengthy 90 minute journey each way, at least I don't have to worry about driving on all those congested roads each day.
Probably the biggest transformation in New Westminster over the last decade has been the downtown core. Once a vibrant centre of activity, it had become hollowed out and empty of life. Last week I visited a newly renovated shopping plaza on the western edge of the downtown. It's tucked inside a wall of new towers that now dot the New Westminster skyline. Thanks to additional density, it's now a modern shopping district which appears to be attracting an equal number of foot and vehicle passengers.
The number of people walking downtown and in the Uptown district seems to be growing on a daily basis. In fact, last weekend the sidewalks in Uptown were packed with pedestrians and I could just have easily been in Vancouver's West End judging by how many people were out and about.
Several new high profile condo projects near the SkyTrain stations have now been completed and are selling out fast. Their stunning views of the waterfront and Mount Baker, combined with New Westminster-style discounted pricing, have meant they aren't suffering the same fate as Vancouver's Olympic Village ghost town.
If there remains one blemish on New Westminster's waterfront it remains the Quay project which we've written about here before. Work continues to progress slowly and they claim it's set to re-open at some point in the near future. It can't happen soon enough in my opinion, as it has been sorely missed by everyone in the community.
I took a few photos of New Westminster's downtown a couple of days ago and have uploaded them to our Flickr account. As you can tell, this is clearly no longer your father's New Westminster. It's quickly emerging as a modern, urban centre where both young and old co-exist in a compact community where you can still afford a home. As you can tell, I truly love living in New Westminster. If you get a chance, drop by some time.
- post by Daniel