A new policy adopted by council this week will help guide the redevelopment of Port Moody's downtown area around Moody Centre SkyTrain Station.
City manager Tim Savoie says the framework is needed to give staff the tools to evaluate development proposals coming forward that will transform 23 acres of light industrial and commercial properties into a dense, urban neighbourhood of condos, shops, offices and artists studios.
He said it became necessary when the consortium of developers and property owners that had been working on a master plan for the neighbourhood for several years fractured. Some are now bringing forward their individual development proposals.
But, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, some councillors expressed trepidation about where the plan is heading.
The draft policy, authored by planning consultant Jim McIntyre and architectural consultant Graham Fligg, calls for the area to provide a diversity of housing options suited to all ages, abilities and incomes as well as a range of employment opportunities. It should also have public amenities, high-quality design and a variety of active and passive parks and open spaces.
The authors also identified view corridors to Burrard Inlet and the mountains of Port Moody’s north shore that need to be protected and the requirement for the neighbourhood to be constructed in a way that encourages active transportation instead of vehicle use.
But Coun. Haven Lurbiecki called the policy’s goals a pie-in-the-sky — literally.
She decried its vision that would allow up to 14 towers as tall as 40 storeys to be constructed between Buller Avenue and Moody Street north of St. Johns Street and challenged whether its emphasis on ground-floor retail spaces would create the desired 2,800 jobs. She also said the predominance of concrete high-rises flies in the face of Port Moody’s climate action targets.
But Fligg said the 14 towers are actually less than the area could accommodate and achieves a balance between the economic feasibility of redevelopment and the creation of an ample number of open spaces to encourage street life as well as protecting the view corridors.
"Anyone who wants to build a tower here has to earn that right," he said. "We want to avoid some of the mistakes that are being made in other communities."
Coun. Callan Morrison worried the devil of achieving that might be in the details.
"I don't see enough in this talking about things like cobblestones or introducing design principles into the streetscape," he said. "We need the cityscape to be artistic and cohesive."
Fligg said it will be up to city staff to hang such standards on the policy, especially now that two development proposals have already come forward that could act as a template for those that follow.
Last month, council had its first opportunity to provide feedback on a plan by Vancouver-based PCI Developments to construct two 39-storey rental towers adjacent to Moody Centre SkyTrain Station. The plan includes a 40,000 sq. ft. grocery store and other ground-floor commercial spaces, artists studios and a large community plaza.
Beedie Living also recently submitted its development application for three towers of 32, 34 and 38 storeys with a total of 972 residential units further east on Spring Street, as well as a six-storey building with 40 below-market rental units a little further west.
Coun. Amy Lubik said despite concerns about tower heights, it's what residents experience at ground level that will determine the success of Moody Centre's redevelopment.
"Higher isn't bad," she said. "But you want to have people feel connected to the streetscape."
McIntyre said with the allowances for open spaces and the planned daylighting of Slaughterhouse Creek that's part of PCI's proposal and could be extended as other projects come forward, there's "neat opportunities in this area to do some pretty creative stuff."
That excited Coun. Kyla Knowles.
"I want our community to be happy," she said.
Coun. Diana Dilworth said the policy will help ensure the creation of a vibrant, dynamic downtown for the city.
"This is an opportunity to bring the centre back into Moody Centre."
"We have to get this right," added Morrison.