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Painting project brightens Port Moody’s newest old gathering space

They built it. Now the people can come.

They built it. Now the people can come.

Last Sunday, about 40 volunteers assembled tables and chairs, painted some of them vibrant shades of blue and pink, and planted a garden in an old canoe decorated with symbols from First Nations culture, all to turn the barren bricks of Port Moody’s Queens Street plaza into a vibrant community gathering space.

The place-making project was initiated by the city’s arts and culture committee but has been embraced by anyone who has strolled across the closed-off north end of Queens Street, between Clarke and Spring streets, and wondered why it was always bereft of people and life, said Brenda Millar.

As the chair of the committee’s Queens Street plaza beautification group, she was tasked with the challenge of transforming the urban design afterthought that hasn’t seen much action since a brief flirtation with a farmers' market several years ago.

“I envisioned it as a community project,” Millar said, sitting at one of the new bistro tables in the plaza under bright sunshine. “We want people to use it as a social meeting place.”

With the support of the arts and culture committee’s chair, Coun. Zoe Royer, and access to its $3,500 annual budget, Millar and her colleagues put together a plan that would involve members of the community putting together the reinvented space.

That sense of ownership will be critical to the plaza’s success, Royer said, noting, “There’s more appreciation if the community does it.”

While Sunday’s gorgeous spring weather helped bring people to the plaza to help out, Millar said she was especially encouraged by the reactions of passersby who happened upon the beautification effort — some even tried to sit on the wooden Adirondack chairs before the paint had dried.

Still to come to the plaza will be umbrellas to create shade and a stage for live performances. The latter is being funded by a $4,000 contribution from developer Marcon, which is involved with several residential projects in the surrounding Moody Centre neighbourhood.

Giving residents of those projects a place to gather and connect will be especially important as the area densifies, Royer said. Already community groups are planning barbecues for the plaza, and there’s a plan to hold a bubble-blowing day.

“The possibilities are endless,” she said.