Port Moody successfully achieves “Small-Town” feel

Port Moody successfully achieves “Small-Town” feel

At the latest DRAFT Official Community Plan Town Hall Meeting on November 27, 2013, I heard Jillian Hull, an active Port Moody volunteer, property owner and friend, talking about the concerns of losing “small town” character, say she wants to, “…shift the argument”. Without any evidence to these claims of concern, Jillian questioned whether we were in fact losing our “small town” character, as a few continue to contend.

Jillian shared her thoughts by stating “small town” happens with people, how we treat people, our sense that we see people all the time, and gave an example of how when she goes to the Inlet Centre she sees and interacts with many people she knows. She spoke about our access to council, and later mentioned to me how easy it was to speak with them. Jillian pointed out that people can have a lot of anxiety recalling the petitioners against high-rises in the Newport area.newport-village-sentinel

She also spoke about her mother living in one of the densest areas in North America, The West End, and one of the most community-oriented and engaged areas, with a high number of renters, but also with one of the highest voter turnout rates.

Jillian said we need to think of “small town” charm as not just the shape and size of our buildings, but who we are.

Thank you Jillian; I agree with you, and we need that connectedness.

It has been argued for a long time by a few in Port Moody that density, high-rises and the resulting traffic, will threaten the “small town” feel of Moody Centre, where it all started over one hundred years ago.

According to the 1987 book ‘Early History of Port Moody’ by D.M. Norton, as a “small town” and before we became a city in 1913, our population was under 1,000. Let’s not fail to understand what this vague ‘small town’ really means in a modern city of almost 34,000 residents.

High-rise towers in Port Moody’s Inlet Centre all started in 1996 with Newport Village where there are now five towers clustered throughout the densely populated low-rise and commercial buildings. Newport fast became a magnet for business, homeowners and visitors, as has the more recent Suter Brook community with its three towers.

When I look at the two facing towers on the little cul-de-sac of Nootka Way in the Klahanie community, I remember a few cries in opposition because of the traffic impact, but that congestion never occurred.

As the people in these smaller scale areas came together, what materialized instead is quite remarkable. These lively neighbourhood communities are shining examples of sustainable, pedestrian-friendly densification with open spaces and amenities are now the three most vibrant neighbourhoods in our city. Through daily interaction the residents and business owners are connected; many living where they work. Commerce serves these communities with the delivery of goods and services in close proximity, negating for many the need of motor powered vehicles.

The evolution of the city with these rich eclectic neighbourhoods, each with its own charm, characteristics and diversity, in its physical landscapes, and in its varied activities and land uses, has been very successful. I believe the strong identities that have emerged through the residents and businesses epitomize “small town” in a modern context.

I question whether development on a low density scale can be in keeping with active engagement, encouraging pedestrians, attracting business, justifying new amenities, leaving open spaces, etc? I believe the lower density a few seem to be hung-up on is an under-optimization of our lands, and more likely to meet the needs of a car-oriented, road-raged, lifestyle. Lower density is certainly not in keeping with sustainability, the vision of the city, nor does it help attain the “small town” character or feel we have successfully achieved in the newer neighbourhoods.

Much of the city’s building stock, particularly in the west end of the city, is getting older and will be closer to reaching its serviceable lifetime, so as we continue to evolve it will be important to redevelop and strategically focus improvements, taking advantage of opportunities, to provide open spaces, connect with transit, and like the previous successes of the Inlet Centre, allow our new neighbours and neighbourhoods of the future to experience and enjoy the ‘small town’ feeling achieved in Port Moody.

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