Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The old Labatt's Brewery site is going to be developed into a major comprehensive area. Apparently there will be a major focus on medical office space, given the proximity to Royal Columbian Hospital. While this will fill a short term need, what is the plan for this space 15-20 years down the road?
The city has rightly recognized that Royal Columbian will gradually decrease in significance in the Fraser Health Authority as services migrate more towards the centre of mass for the region. What will become of all these medical spaces as that happens? Will Sapperton become a third office district, after Downtown and Uptown? Does the city need a third area, and can it support it?
On a much smaller, but still significant scale, Royal City Centre has finally found a tenant for the old Zellers spot. I believe the fitness centre will fill a gap in uptown. It was empty when I moved here a year ago, I wondered how the mall was managing with that major spot location vacant. Also, two small storefronts look nearly done at 6th and 6th where there used to be a Japanese restaurant. No signs of any tenants there yet though.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
We are doing this at our house, so I won't put the address up here publically. If you are interested in coming, email me at hollettm (at) lifeinnewwest . com, or send me a message on twitter or facebook and I will let you know where it is.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Highlights from the 2009 Remembrance Day ceremonies in New Westminster. I don't know how it compares to previous years, but the ceremonies seemed very well attended today. The Royal Westminster Regiment drill hall was overflowing, and I couldn't get close enough to the cenotaph to hear anything.
I hope everyone took time today to reflect on those who put their lives on the line for us. Having a friend in Afghanistan right now made Remembrance Day even more poignant for me this year. Lest we forget.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Walking inside, I was nearly blinded by the bright, colourful walls floors and tables. I don’t know if it was just the colours, but while not seeming dirty, the place didn’t totally feel clean either. There was nothing specific I noticed, so it was probably just the way the décor works.
I found the counter, and after perusing the menu for a moment, ordered the classic – bacon cheeseburger with fries and a coke. “So you want the special,” the helpful lady at the front counter offered, while pointing me at the signs of specials I had completely missed. “Yes I do,” I replied while pulling out my debit card.
I grabbed a seat at a nearby table, and had the whole place to myself. So I took two papers as the restaurant thoughtfully provides a large rack of reading material. Most of it is the free stuff you’ll get anywhere, but it’s nice to have a sizable collection to choose from. I didn’t time how long it took to get my meal, but it was somewhere in the 5-10 minute mark.
The burger was very good. The patty was tasty, but nothing extraordinary. I couldn’t tell if it was a pre-made, or just a plain fresh made patty. Either way, it was nicely cooked. The bun was nice and soft, and the bacon and veggies were crisp. It was very nice to bite into, and tasted good. The fries were also good, crisp outsides and nice soft innards. They came unseasoned, but the tables have plenty of salt, pepper and vinegar so you can get them right to your liking.
While I can’t say it was an extraordinary meal, I can say it’s a big step up from anywhere else at the same price. Burger fries and coke came to $5.97 with tax – basically the same as McDonalds, and a world apart in quality. So the next time you’re craving a burger Uptown and are feeling drawn to a fast food joint, walk just two more blocks and grab a Burger Burger burger instead.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Supposedly next on the list of rapid transit projects is the Evergreen Line connecting Burnaby (Lougheed) to Port Moody and Coquitlam. The tale of this line is almost epic, started, stopped, and made the number one priority so many times it would make your head spin. For brevity, the last few things to happen were
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Who has heard the expression "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain." I would modify that slightly to "If all you do is vote and then complain, shut up and go do something about it." Voting in the elections for which you are eligible (municipal, provincial, federal) is the absolute bare bones minimum level of participation that should be expected of a citizen of our great nation. When there are still countries this day where citizens cannot freely vote for the person of their choice, it is pure negligence for us to let that opportunity to go to waste.
I hear people complain "well, I don't agree with any of them," or "I'd just be picking the lesser of two (or three or four) evils." These are just lazy, whiney excuses for not doing something you should. Politicians are human, and as we see in the news nearly every day, imperfect. Until God himself decides to run for office, you will ALWAYS be voting for the lesser of two evils. Unless you start your own political party where you get the final say, no party's ideology will perfectly match yours.
Since you will never agree with a politician or party on every issue, focus on the big picture. Find the one whose vision most closely matches your own, and go with that. Accept the fact that they will screw up, make decisions you don't like, compromise, and do a whole lot of other things you don't agree with. But trust in the fact that they are attempting to build a city in the same direction you are. The details may not be quite the way you hoped, but the big picture should be close.
What is your vision for
The city is calling for volunteers to serve on a variety of committees and commissions, as reported by Tenth to the Fraser and the New Westminster Record. I put my application together a few weeks ago, but forgot to send it in – thanks to their reminder now it will be in the mail later today.
Democracy is about more than just putting a tick in a ballot box. It's about building the community you want to live in. Whether you serve at a local non-profit agency, a city commission, donate to local charities, gather friends together to clean up the neighbourhood – it doesn't matter what you do, just do something to help create the city you envision. Because if you don't do that you have no right to complain when it all falls down around you.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Donations are being accepted for the food bank, and based on the news it is in serious need of those donations, so be sure to bring some non-perishable food to give to them. If anyone goes down, I would love to see some pictures of the event. It will be at Firehall No. 1, at McBride and 6th Ave. Parking is available at the Canada Games Pool. Hope you have a great time!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
One of the things I love about this neighbourhood is how family friendly it is. There are always parents out and about with kids, gaggles of teens around, and the playground half a block away at Moody Park is packed whenever the sun is out. So seeing this going on in the area I am raising my children and so many others are too pisses me off.
Getting rid of the drug problem will take a lot of people doing a lot of things, but I think one of the main things we need to do as a community is stand up and say we will not allow this in our neighbourhood. By this I don’t mean marches and rallies, or groups claiming to ‘take back our streets,’ though those events do have their place. What needs to happen is all of us in the community need to stand up – alone, with a friend, with neighbours, building managers, and stop this from happening whenever we see it.
This means moms calling 911 on their cell the minute they see a deal going on. This means recording license plates, getting descriptions and passing them onto police. This means telling them to their face they are not welcome to ply their trade here, and we will take every legal recourse available to ensure they cannot.
So it is with a lot of embarrassment I admit that as I walked by the deal that night, I did not call 911. I did not get a good look at the dealer or the buyers. I did not remember a license plate, make or model of car. And I did not tell the dealer to stop what he is doing. That night, I was part of the problem. But from this point forward, I will not have to say that again.
Friday, September 18, 2009
The geographical benefits of New West
o 10 minute drive to Central Surrey,
o 15 minutes to Surrey Docks, Newton, Metrotown, Coquitlam Town Centre
o 20 minute drive to Central Richmond
o 25 minute drive to YVR, the US Border, Cloverdale and Langley
o 30 minute drive to Downtown Vancouver
o 35 minute drive to Deltaport.
o Two rapid transit lines connecting to Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey
o Reasonable bus schedules (through Uptown/Downtown at least)
o Easily walkable neighbourhoods
o On the North/West side of the Fraser (Crossing the Fraser is a major psychological barrier the further you get away from it, and depending on traffic a major physical one as well)
The geographical challenges of New West
o Sandwiched between Burnaby and Surrey, attention is drawn away from New West to the bigger cities
o Hilly terrain, affects mobility, particularly in winter.
o No port facilities within the city
While it is mentioned in passing in places like the Official Community Plan (OCP), I don’t see how we are really leveraging our position. This is just a quick list of potential businesses types and agencies that could potentially benefit from locating in New West.
- Distribution centres
- In-home services (cleaning, cooking, nursing)
- News reporting
- Private investigators
- Trades (Plumbers, electricians, etc)
- Construction Management
- Consulting Firms
- Auto parts
- Pilot Car Operators
- Movie Servicing
- Construction Supplies and Equipment
- Regional policing
- Postal Centre
- Revenue Canada
- Children’s Ministry
- Metro Vancouver Parks
Essentially any kind of business or agency that needs to work throughout Metro Vancouver or needs decent connections to major transportation infrastructure (highways, docks, airports, border crossings) could potentially benefit from locating in New West.
In addition to location, New West has a number of other positives that make it attractive for business, including
Land Costs – Low office rates compared to region. Lower land costs than Vancouver, higher than south of Fraser
Taxes – comparable with the region.
Labour availability – local labour is available, however New West is a job neutral-job creating city, so immediately local labour may be lower than average. However, strong transit connections should mitigate this somewhat. Another issue identified in the background of the OCP is the average education of the local area is below the regional average. Along with being distant from the two major post-secondary institutes, this can make attracting high-tech business more difficult.
Image/Prestige of Area – Downtown is negative due to crime
Parking and accessibility – generally cheaper and more available than most of the region.
Under the OCP, Uptown is meant to be the Professional/High Tech centre, Downtown is the historical tourist and retail (maintaining some office and professional), Sapperton/Braid the Manufacturing centre and Queensborough the heavy industrial site. However, it is not just enough to designate certain areas for certain types of development, and restrict that through the development process. How are we encouraging business in general and the specific types of businesses we want to start or move to New West?
Two of the items identified in the OCP:
Promote new office development – this puts the cart before the horse. Construction follows demand. We need to promote professional and office based businesses to locate within New West, as they require more office space construction will follow to meet the needs.
Vibrant streetscapes – badly needed downtown to improve the perception of the area
Industrial – just platitudes on supporting and promoting for more jobs, consolidated facilities, and specialized areas.
To their credit, the city is working on some of the foundational type work such improving transportation infrastructure. However, this is moving very slowly and there appears to be little support outside of this. Business services consist of Initial Building Consultation, which is only for construction. Very little is on city website about business development or support for business, just a hard to find reference to BIA and Chamber of Commerce. While I have not spoken to them, from all accounts city staff are very helpful when calling, but who will call if they can’t get the information they need beforehand?
Despite all our benefits, the city seems content to do some of the work identified in the plan, put out less information and let the business community find us. The biggest problem New West has is being found amongst the other bigger cities. The city needs to take on a strongly active role in promoting itself to business, lest we lose our position as a job creator and settle into being just another suburb.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
For some time now I have been wanting to grow a small vegetable garden, for a number of reasones that basically boil down to it is better, cheaper and healthier for you. When we moved to New West, I started looking for an Uptown community garden, and was disappointed that the only one I could find was the garden in Queensborough.
I decided to check with New West Parks, Culture and Recreation Board to see what their plans are for community gardens. Interestingly, it is hard to find good information from the Parks Board. They have a reasonable site detailing facilities and activies availabe, but I haven't found any information detailing the back end of the board. For example, questions I could not find answers to on the Parks or City websites are
- Who is on the board?
- When and where are the public meetings?
- Minutes from previous meetings
- Any kind of long term vision, goal or strategy
What I did find is the New Westminster Environmental Partners seems to be taking the lead on the community garden issue. It sounds like the have had some success in moving this forward, with a presentation to the City in September. The also put on occassional public meetings, including one tonight (7:00 PM at CAW Union Hall, 326 12th Street). Other groups, such as the New West Downtown Residents Association seem to be deferring to them.
While I am glad the NWEP is pushing forward on the community garden issue, I am concerned with the lack (or at least very hard to find) of information from the Parks Board. New West is blessed with a number of great parks, and with its small size, it feels like there is an abundance of parks available for the public. This is a large strength for the city, and we should be discussing how we can improve on that strength and use it to build strong communities. To do that we need to make the discussions, plans and meetings of the Park Board more visible.
Friday, September 11, 2009
We rent, and for the past five years have gotten itchy feet pretty much every year whenever our lease was up. First we were living downtown, and had a great spot down in Yaletown. For a variety of reasons, we decided to move out to Surrey from there. We tried two places in Surrey, one in Fleetwood, and one closer to Guidlford, but with Gill unable to drive it never worked well for us.
So last September our lease was coming up, the landlord was trying to sell the house, we wanted to live somewhere not in Surrey and cut down our rent if we could. The main feature we were looking for in a place was somewhere close to shopping, parks and amenities so Gill could get out during the day and do the things she needed to do. Access to transit was important as well for the same reason.
We were looking at places in Vancouver and Burnaby mostly. Jocye-Collingwood, Brentwood, Metrotown - we mainly focused on the major town centres. New West never even crossed our minds. I don't remember how or why, but somehow I found myself in uptown New West one day during this time. I noticed the mall and shopping along 6th Ave and 6th Street, Moody Park, and all the low rise apartments in the area. The area seemed to be busy with lots of people around, lots of kids at the park and just generally pleasant.
We dug into the area further, and quickly decided it was where we wanted to be. We rented a one-bedroom apartment there, and thanks to a friendly building manager we moved over to a two-bedroom not long after.
What we like
- all our daily needs are within easy walking distance. While Royal City Centre is not the hub that so many other malls here are, along with the local shops along 6th and 6th, it has all the things we need on a regular basis.
- decent transit connections. Between the 106, 123, 154 and 155, there is generally a bus coming soon, and it's only a few minutes to the skytrain
- great parks - Moody park is fantastic for bringing the kids to, or just relaxing on a nice day. Queens park is a reasonable walk, and there are several smaller parks and playgrounds nearby too.
- the people! everyone here is so friendly - even after a year I am still suprised at how many people will greet you just walking down the street.
What we don't like
- 6th Ave frequently seems dirty or grimy between 6th and 8th streets.
- Almost all the buildings have stairs to navigate to enter or exit - pick your building carefully if you have a stroller
- Inconsistent transit - busses don't follow the scheduel well, and and I regularly find trips completely missed.
- Highway access - while I take the skytrain to work, and Gill doesn't drive, we still use our car few times a week. Going south is great, as we can hop onto the Queensborogh or Pattullo within minutes, but getting to Highway 1 takes a lot longer than we would like.
On the whole, we have been very happy with our move to New West. If anyone on here is from there, drop me a line - I'd love to hear from you and what you like about the city.