Fontaine provides predictions for the Royal City

Post by Mike Klassen in

6 comments

river market.jpg
River Market re-opening may revitalize New West waterfront Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Last month, the New Westminster News Leader asked my colleague Daniel Fontaine to answer a few questions on the future of Royal City politics in 2011. The column is landing on the doorsteps of New Westminster residents today and we've decided to also share it with you.

Q: Were there any surprises for you in New Westminster politics in 2010?

The biggest surprise was a recent Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey which revealed the City of New Westminster was the least wasteful amongst B.C. municipalities. This is despite the fact the Royal City continues to have one of the highest residential property tax rates in Metro Vancouver.

Q: What do you think is the most pressing issue in New West politics right now and why?

I think transportation is the top-of-mind issue for most New Westminster residents. Plans for a new six-lane Pattullo Bridge as well as the United Boulevard Extension project in Sapperton will continue to be very controversial.

Details regarding the Pattullo Bridge expansion continue to remain under wraps with all but a few politicians, city engineers and TransLink staff privy to what is being proposed. If both transportation infrastructure projects are allowed to proceed, they will most certainly funnel even more traffic onto highly congested Royal City streets in the coming decades.

Q: What would be the best thing that could happen in local politics in 2011?

The New Westminster School Board finally gets it act together when it comes to the controversial secondary school project. Local parents have good reason to be frustrated with the countless delays and lack of progress in getting the school plans finalized. Let’s hope 2011 will be the year we take this capital project out of the board room and onto the construction site.

Q: The worst thing?

The worst thing that could happen is that voters continue to stay at home in record numbers for the upcoming 2011 civic election. Only 25 per cent of eligible voters bothered to cast their ballot in 2008. In fact, Mayor Wayne Wright required a mere 5,000 votes to secure his victory two years ago.

Q: What are your hopes for the community in the new year that have the best chances of actually happening?

I am hoping the former New Westminster Quay Market will be revitalized and become a vibrant commercial node for the Royal City. The new River Market has been refurbished and now has Donald’s Market as its anchor tenant. I’m hopeful that once the renovations are complete, the River Market project will finally breathe life into New Westminster’s waterfront once again.

Q: Give us your wildest and craziest prediction?

The Columbia Street area of Downtown New Westminster becomes the new Yaletown. Developers begin scooping up older buildings and converting them into trendy new condominiums. The area becomes a magnet for young artists and couples looking for a more affordable alternative to Vancouver’s costly condos. As a result of all this economic activity, New Westminster becomes the only city in Metro Vancouver to freeze residential property tax increases.

6 Comments

"Developers begin scooping up older buildings and converting them into trendy new condominiums. The area becomes a magnet for young artists and couples looking for a more affordable alternative to Vancouver’s costly condos." Yaletown works, to the extent it does, because people make stuff there. I think it would work even better if we could figure out a way to have us make things there. Trendy condominiums are not the engine of urban renewal, jobs are. We need a diverse local job base. There are precious few artists in Yaletown. Trt Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside.

Heh, nice to see my photo on your site :-) - though I'd prefer if you'd link it to my Twitter (@breebop) or New West blog (tenthtothefraser.ca) rather than my personal Facebook page.

I like your predictions for New West, but I agree with Steven's comment above: it's jobs that New West needs, not more condos! I'm happy with the recent residential development boom, but now it's time for New West to focus on economic development.

Briana,

Thanks for your comment and I've now updated the link!

Good article and picture Daniel!

Indeed things are looking up for the old Royal City. I just found out how we are going to be able to afford it, my condo assessment just arrived in the mail. Up 52% from last year! We all know what that means come July 1st. All ribbing aside this makes for serious concern when it comes to the seniors living in our city on fixed incomes. The report on the least wasteful only goes up to 2008 and I wonder where we would stand at the end of 2010. I too hope more residents will get out and vote in the civic elections this year and agree with Briana, its time the city gets working on economic development.
Happy New Year!

The Queens Park neighborhood is truly a gem.
Credit should go to the many people who fought hard to make it what it is.
To taxes. Some people have been warning for several years that the running of a city is simply too complex for this Mayor.
For years he has sucked up to the left for support. Now the tax and spend crowd is in charge. Look out!!!
High taxes, high debt, and little in the way of amenities. But they sue have hired a lot of people. Payback for the people who paid for and ran their campaigns.
The study done on taxes recently made New West. the least bad in a terrible crowd.
If it wasn't for the previous Mayor and Council, which had tax increases of 0,0, and 2 from '91 to '93, New West would be among the worst of the worst.
These current guys are unable to understand that multi-family development does not pay for the services they consume. They are too busy with their social engineering to understand this.
Mayor Dudley Do-Wright says, " I have cut this piece of wood seven times already, and it's still too short.
That's about how much sense it makes to try to solve your tax problems by building a ton of multi-family housing, and not having a stringent regimen of DCC's and amenity charges in place. But then look at where most of his campaign contributions came from - developers - ain't too hard to figure that one out is it?

Daniel, your "...New Westminster Quay Market will be revitalized and become a vibrant commercial node for the Royal City" is a positive start.

But, by itself it's not going to work because this will be another reiteration of what has gone before. IMO, while the Market is a good 'anchor' commercial facility which can draw and maintain a large customer base, more than that is needed to make it work. New West planners are still not thinking 'urban', 'good neighbour' enough. They think suburban. The Market has been sited as a building on a site (a built form set back to be 'seen') rather than an important ingredient in a high street continuum. The same can be said about much of the other new development from the river into the Columbia 'high' Street. It's a disjointed collection of suburban buildings.

What New West's historic, and what a wonderful potential, downtown needs is a fundamental change in planning think from suburban to urban. The street must become the focus, not the building. Linkages and connections must be made and a continuity achieved.

Another unique problem New West's Downtown presents is its topography. The steep slopes make pedestrian, bike and vehicular movement more of a challenge. Innovative solutions need to be generated because movement is another essential part of the urban knitting process.

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