VanCity design not 'heritage' enough: Coquitlam council

Drawings for a new VanCity branch in Maillardville will get a once-over next month from the city committee in charge of rejuvenating the French-Canadian enclave.

On Monday, the modern architectural design proposed for the credit union branch at 1013 Brunette Ave. got mixed reviews from city council, with some elected officials — including the chair of the Maillardville Commercial and Cultural Revitalization Advisory Committee — criticizing VanCity for missing the mark on heritage.

Their comments came a month after a new set of design guidelines was adopted to coincide with the updated Maillardville Neighbourhood Plan, a blueprint for growth that calls for 6,000 more residents in the south Coquitlam area over 20 years.

The purpose of the design guidelines is to re-create the French-Canadian flair in new buildings that would have been common in Maillardville more than a century ago.

But Coun. Terry O'Neill said VanCity "checked all the boxes" in the guidelines for its new building by including wood-finishing materials and metal fretwork. And he worried city council would send the wrong message to developers should it stop every bid because some plans don't have enough "heritage-inspired" elements. He questioned whether council is clear in its vision for Maillardville's renewal.

Coun. Bonita Zarrillo said she doesn't mind the mix of modern and heritage styles in Maillardville, noting, "I don't think we need to re-create some French past."

Others disagreed. Coun. Neal Nicholson stressed the importance of preserving the French-Canadian character of Maillardville, especially as its francophone population dwindles. He asked VanCity to "honour the origins" of the community with a redesign.

"I absolutely love the design but it doesn't fit," added Coun. Chris Wilson.

Coun. Brent Asmundson noted the contemporary design resembles the original Caisse populaire de Maillardville building, built in 1967 while Coun. Mae Reid said she was disappointed VanCity failed to include that institution's moniker on the structure.

"It doesn't fit the look we are trying to achieve in Maillardville," said Coun. Craig Hodge, chair of the Maillardville committee. "This is going to be out of place."

City council voted 7-2 to refer the VanCity application to city staff and the Maillardville advisory committee for comment. The group is set to meet in June.

Meanwhile, another major renewal project for Maillardville also came before city council on Monday.

The Societe du Foyer Maillard was issued development and demolition permits to redevelop Foyer Maillard at 1010 Alderson Ave. and replace it with a new 125-bed care facility.

Once complete, the society will receive operational funding from Fraser Health.


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