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Photos: This old strip mall once Coquitlam's first 'modern' shopping centre

It was big news when Burquitlam Plaza opened 65 years ago — and you could get chicken for 49 cents a pound.

On May 29, 1958, citizens of Coquitlam and Port Moody were encouraged to drive or were given a free bus ride to attend the grand opening ceremony for the new Burquitlam Plaza.

Anchored by Super-Valu and Cunningham Drugs, Burquitlam Plaza was the go-to spot for local shoppers who were moving into the new subdivisions of Glenayre, Seaview, Ranch Park and Harbour Chines.

Specializing in "day-to-day" needs, Burquitlam Plaza cost $75,000 to build when it was constructed 65 years ago, and its huge parking lot for 400 cars was considered a modern amenity.

"Burquitlam Plaza is a perfect example of what we offer to attract shoppers to our modern market place," said L.T. Hurst, president of Capital Holdings, who was quoted in an eight-page section devoted to the new shopping centre in the Daily Columbian.

Today, Burquitlam Plaza serves a community in transition while it awaits a massive transformation.

Value of property is rising

Morguard Investment Ltd. is proposing to build six towers with 2,200 units for about 5,000 residents — plus retail and child care spaces — on the nearly eight acre property, located at 552 Clarke Rd., and 550 and 566 Emerson St.

Situated next to the Burquitlam SkyTrain station, the project is currently before Coquitlam council and re-development is likely in the cards in the next few years for the property, currently worth $142.5 million, according to BC Assessment.

However, some residents miss the glory days of the shopping centre when it had a grocery store, a hardware store, a gas station, a shoe store, and bustling doctor and dentist offices.

Before SkyTrain, there was a Dairy Queen on the property, that Redditers say was only open in summer.

"A lot of old places, in general, get taken for granted, and then one day they're gone and they get replaced by some drab looking thing," said Andrew McQuillan, a local photographer who tales photos of older buildings, including the old Burquitlam Safeway before it was torn down.

A store clerk at Shoppers Drug Mart who has lived in the area for 30 years says "a lot has been lost."

Even as people queue for buses outside the bustling SkyTrain station it is easy to see that the mall's days are numbered.

CIBC bank leaving in March

Several retail store fronts are empty, and the CIBC branch, which has been at Burquitlam Plaza since it opened, is closing on March 23, according to a notice on the door. The branch at Lougheed Town Centre will service customer's needs.

It's hard to imagine the grand-opening day so long ago, and the advertisements in the Daily Columbian are funny to read.

"Take advantage of the many money saving specials — a world of pleasure awaits you at this modern one-stop shopping centre. Visit Burquitlam Plaza Today," reads one full-page ad for Super-Valu.

And if you shopped at Cunningham Drugs, you would get a free brick of ice cream on opening day.

Chicken 49 cents per pound

Some of the prices are screamingly funny, too, given today's inflation: 

Here are some prices that were offered at Super-Valu in May, 1958:

  • Four rolls of toilet tissue for 49 cents
  • Frying chicken for 49 cents a pound
  • Pork and beans for 10 cents a can
  • Canned salmon, two tins for 69 cents
  • Canned tuna, two tins for 29 cents
  • Strawberry jam was 45 cents for a jar

Buy a house for under $17,000

Not surprisingly, local developers were happy to support the new Burquitlam Plaza, and many had congratulation ads in the paper.

The developer of Harbour Chines congratulated the developer on the opening of "western Canada's most modern and complete shopping centre."

Of course, this was a time of optimism, during the post-war baby boom, when you could purchase a three-bedroom home in "Sunny Burquitlam" for $16,900.

Ninety years ago, however, there was a farm that is today marked by Hobbis Way.

Plans are to have the road continue through the development named in honour of the Coquitlam pioneers whose family farm was where Burquitlam Plaza is today.

Of course the Coast Salish made the area their home long before, as Morguard notes on its website.

Visit Morguard's website for more information about plans for the area, and to provide feedback.

There are still a large number of shops and services at Burquitlam Plaza, including (in alphabetical order):

  • AMC Insurance
  • Big Box Outlet
  • Bosleys By Pet Valu
  • Burquitlam Community Police Station
  • Dollarama
  • Family Dentistry
  • Imagine Cannabis
  • North Garden Restaurant
  • Optical Outlet
  • Pagoda Travel
  • Plaza Barbers
  • Shish Kabab
  • Shiraz Farm Market
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • UPS
  • Vape Street
  • West Coast Notaries