Saving 'built history' in Coquitlam

This fall, the city will form a staff team to research local heritage assets, review best practices and build strategy concepts around bonus density, customized zoning and appropriate forms, among other things.

Coquitlam signed its first Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) a dozen years ago, paving the way for the restoration of the 1913 Bédard home in Laval Square.

Since then, city council has green-lighted 14 more HRAs and the applications are now coming in at a faster pace, with eight bids in the hopper, said Andrew Merrill, Coquitlam’s manager of community planning.

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But with the city’s heritage development guidelines out of date — or, in some cases, non-existent — the municipality wants to create a new heritage management strategy in a bid to save public and private structures and places of historical significance.

“We want to establish a community vision around built heritage in Coquitlam,” Merrill told The Tri-City News last week. “That means offering the tools and criteria to manage the retention and revitalization of our older buildings.”

This fall, the city will form a staff team to research local heritage assets, review best practices and build strategy concepts around bonus density, customized zoning and appropriate forms, among other things.

And at the start of next year, the public will have a chance to weigh in on future heritage planning, through open houses and surveys.

Among the stakeholders to be consulted will be the Coquitlam Heritage Society, Riverview Horticultural Centre Society and the Minnekhada Park Association. Merrill said the city is also eager to speak with Kwikwetlem First Nation as well as ethnic groups to include cultural heritage elements “and tell their stories.”

The final report is due before city council next fall for consideration.

Merrill said the push to manage built heritage also stems from the Maillardville Neighbourhood Plan, which council adopted in 2014. During that consultation, there were calls to preserve and commemorate older buildings in the historic French-Canadian enclave.

Merrill said the city will look at municipalities like New Westminster, Fort Langley, Victoria and Burnaby, where, for example, a developer was permitted to build a highrise in Metrotown as long as a heritage home on the neighbouring lot wasn’t razed.

“Is our community comfortable with something like that here? That’s what we’d like to find out.”

He added: “Coquitlam just can’t be just all about new development. We need to recognize the older built heritage and where we got to today. We can take a look back and see what we can celebrate.” 

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