Plan adopted to modernize Austin Heights — at last
Plans for the first highrise in the soon-to-be-redeveloped Austin Heights neighbourhood in Coquitlam are already underway with the developer organizing an open house for later this month.
Houtan Rafii, vice president of residential development with the Beedie Group, said his company will host the public consultation for its proposed 24-storey tower at Blue Mountain Street and Austin Avenue. The meeting is expected to take place at the Royal Canadian Legion or at the Vancouver Golf Club within the next two weeks.
The city mandated the event "because the building is of an iconic nature," Rafii told The Tri-City News, but "we have been pretty intimate with the public response to date." (A formal application is expected to go before city council in the next month or so.)
The height of Beedie's building — as well as for other towers envisioned for Austin Heights — was a concern raised last week during a public hearing.
Still, on Monday, city council whole-heartedly adopted the new neighbourhood plan for the aging area, where the city plans to add 5,000 more residents in another 2,500 homes between Blue Mountain to Linton streets and Foster to Rochester avenues.
"It feels good to have the plan complete, and now we can implement it," said Erin Davidson, executive director of the Austin Heights Business Improvement Association, which urged area business owners and residents to take part in the neighbourhood plan process and give feedback to city staff.
She said the BIA is working on bringing pride back to Austin Heights, with its first-ever Daisy Day festival — harking back to Austin's golden era of the 1950's and 60's — happening on June 25 that will include a pancake breakfast and entertainment.
Coun. Doug Macdonell, who grew up in Austin Heights and attended Austin Heights elementary, said the area needs to be modernized. "It's come to a time now where it's pretty tired," he said, adding, "We need the density to rehabilitate this area and make it a thriving community again."
Coun. Neal Nicholson called Austin Heights "the vibrant, new centre of Coquitlam."
"It's been a long time coming to redevelop the Austin Heights area," said Coun. Mae Reid, who chairs the city's land use committee. "It's not going to happen all at once but it will slowly start."
Many buildings are nearing their life cycle, Reid said, "so here are opportunities now for the owners of those buildings — and those loyal citizens who have been here for so long — that they can rebuild their buildings and get a little more density out of them and make it worthwhile for everyone."
As for a comment raised at the public hearing about the blunt landscape between the proposed Beedie tower and single-family homes across the street, Coun. Linda Reimer noted similar views in Vancouver's West End "and the area is just full of character," she said.
A neighbourhood plan offers a detailed vision that shows, for example, potential land uses and densities for an area. It defines the type and location for housing and commercial buildings as well as green spaces, civic centres, and pedestrian and cycling routes. Currently, Coquitlam has neighbourhood plans for:
• Austin Heights
• Maillardville (to be updated)
• Upper Hyde Creek
• Lower Hyde Creek
• Smiling Creek
And it has neighbourhood plans in the works for:
• Partington Creek
• Hazel Drive