COLUMN: Which of these ships will sail?
If SkyTrain stations are supposed to be catalysts for development, why has there been nothing at 22nd Street?
It’s a question that pops up from time to time. And a fair one too, given that most stations have seen an impact, ranging from the mega-boom at Metrotown and lately, Surrey Central, to more modest stimulus at places like Joyce and even in the area of Edmonds station.
New West has seen action, too, with the Brewery District growing up around Sapperton Station and at New West station, the monolith that is Plaza 88.
There, a fourth tower is in the works which will apparently be 39 storeys of cubby holes.
At Braid, Bentall Kennedy is in the early stages of a plan that could eventually add an office park and a buffer zone of multi-family housing between that and the single-family neighbourhood up the slope.
But why not 22nd Street Station? Around the station, from Marine Way up to about Eighth Avenue, it’s possible to build “residential mixed density” according to the city’s Official Community Plan, which means the city would entertain a variety of housing types, including high density in some cases if the developer offered “a contribution to parks, open space, community amenity or school improvements…”
But there are many obstacles—the most obvious being the rush hour traffic snarl. Also the surrounding area is generally made up of small lots, which requires a lot of legwork for developers to assemble into a single, developable property.
The catalyst for the Brewery District in Sapperton was the sale of the old Labatt brewery site, a large property. The lot next to Braid station, similarly is a massive lot (38 acres) owned by a single owner (pension fund).
The houses around 22nd tend to be in good shape, too, meaning residents are unlikely to want to sell. The redevelopment around SkyTrain stations is also spurred by the proximity of jobs. Sapperton has Royal Columbian Hospital. The Braid proposal is about new offices. And Downtown has many employers, notably Douglas College.
The city says a developer comes to kick the tires around 22nd from time to time, but for now it’s unlikely to change.
Farewell to the Chief?
It’s hard not to like a guy like David Cobb, owner of the Chief Skugaid. Both Cobb and his 100-foot-long former fish boat are effectively squatters on New West’s riverfront, first at the parking lot owned by Larco (which, incidentally, has been squatting on our waterfront for decades now), and as of this week on city land adjacent to the Fraser River Discovery Centre.
PHOTO: David Cobb aboard
the Chief Skugaid.
Cobb’s boat is 100 years old this year, and at first he tied up in New West because a broken train bridge prevented him going downstream to get it fixed. But now he simply thinks it’s a good fit for our city. He even suggested it be a permanent feature at Westminster Pier Park. He’d keep living in it, too, of course.
What hasn’t been mentioned in the news stories is the fact we’re more likely to see oolichan fly than see Cobb’s boat restored to its former glory, as he said he intends to do.
Stopping by, you don’t see much restoration going on.
Meantime, the clock is ticking. The city will likely boot him out eventually, cause y’know, you can’t just let him squat.
The irony is, cities with characters like Cobb are a heck of a lot more interesting. And Cobb’s boat has a lot more relevance to New West’s nautical history than a former Mississippi steamboat, or Russian submarine ever had.
• Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.