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Port Coquitlam to revamp its downtown

The city's finance committee has approved the terms of reference for the Downtown Action Plan.
Shaughnessy Street in Port Coquitlam.

Port Coquitlam is back at the drawing board to revitalize its downtown.

Last week, the city's finance committee approved the terms of reference for the Downtown Action Plan, a blueprint that will see a consultant work with property owners, developers and investors to spur growth in the core.

Expected to get underway this fall, the study comes a decade after the municipality updated a downtown policy — a year after city council rezoned the entire hub for high density with the intent to boost the centre to attract rapid transit to PoCo.

That study cost $15,000 and was based on the official community plan (OCP) as well as the City of Port Coquitlam Downtown Plan and the Downtown Street Beautification Plan. Both plans were drafted in the late 1990s and were given a time horizon of 2016.

This time around, however, the downtown review is budgeted to cost $50,000 and will coincide with the update of the OCP, which is expected to launch this fall.

It will also coincide with the upcoming rebuild of the PoCo recreation complex, and it will shake out as retailers continue to pop up in Dominion Triangle — the biggest competitor for downtown merchants.

The downtown study also comes as residential development to the south booms — adding around 300 new suites a year into mid-rise apartment blocks — and after the PoCo Business Improvement Association (BIA) introduced its new vision last year.

"The BIA has done a lot of work," PoCo's planning manager Jennifer Little told the finance committee last Monday, noting the study will concentrate on the area between Wilson Avenue, Mary Hill Road, Kingsway Avenue/CP Rail line and Maple Street, with Shaughnessy Street as the main road.

Specifically, the city is looking to work with current and future owners and developers to draw a "stronger mix of tenants while retaining its small-scale character and small town charm."

The executive summary reads, in part: "What we wish to create is a plan of action that results in a downtown that will have a greater vitality and economic strength based on a diversity of retail businesses, provision of office spaces and — perhaps — a high-end restaurant or two."

Councillors insisted last week they want to be part of that drive and urged the planning department to form a stakeholder working group. "People are really excited to be part of the revitalization of the downtown," Coun. Dean Washington said.

But Coun. Brad West said he doesn't want a cookie-cutter report written by an outside hand. "I'm always concerned about Consultant Land," he said, adding city council needs to be included. "This is a great opportunity. I think there's a lot of interest out there. There's this pent-up interest and excitement about what it's going to look like."

Coun. Mike Forrest added he wants the city to bring on a consulting team that has its pulse on the future. "I know of lots of consultants who want to be part of making this one of the most liveable cities in the Lower Mainland," Washington said.

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