Zoe Royer’s latest canvas is actually made of bricks.
The Port Moody city councillor, who's also an artist and gallery proprietor, wants to turn the desolate pavers of Queens Street plaza into a lively community gathering space where families can pull up chairs to chat with neighbours, listen to live music or watch their kids play with jump ropes or sidewalk chalk from a treasure box equipped with all manner of fun stuff.
At its meeting March 26, Port Moody council gave its assent for the city’s arts and culture committee, which Royer chairs, to spend $3,500 of its budget to make that vision happen — ideally in time for this summer, she said.
Aside from a brief period when a farmers' market alighted there, Royer said the plaza in the heart of Port Moody’s historic downtown on Clarke Street has never really lived up to its potential.
“People just sort of transit through here,” she said.
But give them a reason to stay and the area could become a centrepiece to the revitalization of Moody Centre as the neighbourhood grows, with new residents moving into new developments, especially as those developments will consist mostly of condos and townhomes that are short of outdoor space.
“As people’s living space shrinks, we really need these spaces more and more,” Royer said, adding that a subcommittee of the arts and culture group has been working on its plan for the Queens Street plaza for more than a year.
Royer said the thought is to start small by acquiring some outdoor chairs and tables or perhaps soliciting donations of unused outdoor furniture from the public that could then be refurbished at a community painting party. She said getting residents involved in some way from the get-go will be key to creating a sense of ownership of the plaza and investment in its success.
“When you’ve got that kind of involvement, people have a sense of pride and things won’t go missing,” Royer said, adding additional elements like a performance stage and programming could develop organically as people embrace the plaza and more money is found from the city or sponsorships.
“It’s amazing what happens when you put seating and some interesting elements that add warmth and colour in a space,” Royer said. “People are curious.”
An ongoing challenge will be shade. While there are a few trees around the plaza, it’s mostly wide open to the sun — great on an early spring day but not so inviting during a summertime heatwave.
During its research into the possibilities for the square, Royer said the committee was enchanted by an urban experiment in Canberra, Australia, where a similar square was enlivened with furnishings and the shade came from colourful umbrellas suspended high above. Other ideas could include a moveable gazebo, canopy sails or an art installation that would provide shade.