Monday, September 1, 2014

Densification or not near transit?

With the Evergreen Line taking shape along its route from Lougheed Mall to Coquitlam, the debate over the merits of densification is taking place in Port Moody which will see 2 stations built within its boundaries.

With the Millennium Line seeing massive developments take shape along its route on Lougheed Hwy in Burnaby, with many more to come in the future, a similar trend seems inevitable along St Johns Street.

The densification process in Port Moody began long before the Evergreen Line broke ground as funding uncertainty delayed the long-promised line for over a decade.  With the line within 2 years of completion, the debate is becoming more prominent as developers are now looking at potential mega projects along the St. Johns Street corridor.


This story is part of a joint Vancouver Sun-Langara College project looking at the urban future of the rapidly growing Metro Vancouver region.
The cities of Port Moody and Coquitlam are set to fundamentally change their identities from suburban neighbourhoods to urban communities over the next two decades.
But that transformation operation is being met with very different responses. While many in Coquitlam seem to embrace the shift, some Port Moody residents are pushing back against the city’s development plans.
“Residents are being told that we must have major densification to support (the Evergreen Line),” said Hazel Mason, a longtime Port Moody resident and president of the Moody Centre Community Association, which is fighting the city’s official community plan. “We’ve got seniors that are moving out and we’ve got people who want to live in Port Moody that are forming their Plan B — it’s sad.”
The city is pursuing more transit-oriented development to account for the 10.9-kilometre Evergreen Line, expected to be in service by summer 2016. In the next 30 years, Port Moody’s population is projected to rise from 34,500 to 50,000.
Port Moody plans to densify around designated SkyTrain stations such as Moody Centre, the heritage commercial district (where Mason lives) and Coronation Park. Concerns include lack of park space, traffic congestion, overcrowding and stress on the city’s infrastructure.
But not all Port Moody residents oppose densification.
A group of homeowners in Coronation Park, which sits between Suter Brook and Newport Village, submitted a petition in favour of densification in the neighbourhood.
“I could live here forever,” said Rose McFarlane, who initiated the petition last November. “It’s not that I have a big desire to see development happen. But I think it would make sense if they’re going to develop ... this is the area to do it.”
That minority group of cautious approvers in Port Moody is a majority in nearby Coquitlam, where many embrace the incoming rapid transit line in a city whose population is expected to grow from 131,500 to 224,000.
Paul Heath and his fiancée, who live on Glen Drive near the incoming Lincoln Evergreen station, believe densification brings a unique feel to the suburbs.
“We love the densification of the area and how it’s got a downtown feel to it, but you still know you’re in the suburbs,” said Heath, adding that densification means a greater variety of businesses, restaurants and stores.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said residents understand that densification is necessary to support the rapid transit line that has been years in the making.
“We’ve always fought for it,” he said. “I think, in reality, a majority of people in Port Moody embrace it. They embrace the same kind of livable community that we want in Coquitlam. I recognize that some want it to be a small town and do not accept any of the new population, but I don’t think that’s a sustainable position.”
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