Mark Ransom is one face of redevelopment.
While builders commission glossy conceptual renderings and city councillors debate the merits of 40 storeys versus 26 storeys, Ransom has watched the Coronation Park neighbourhood he grew up in grind into a state of suspended animation as residents await some kind of certainty on the fate of their homes. And their futures.
Ransom and his neighbours are waiting for a massive redevelopment proposal by Vancouver-based Wesgroup Properties to inch forward or be killed outright. Meanwhile, their homes in the mid-century enclave, that’s bordered by Ioco Road, the Barnet Highway, Guildford and Balmoral drives, are left in stasis.
According to BC Assessment, properties in the neighbourhood are valued from $880,000 to $2.1 million.
Ransom said while the conditional offer he’s got for his property is likely better than he’d get on the open real estate market, he wonders if the stress of an uncertain future that could be determined by decisions made at nearby Port Moody city hall or in a Vancouver boardroom is worth it.
Ransom’s parents, Fred and Leona, were amongst the first residents of Coronation Park, settling in to their home at the foot of Windsor Drive in 1959 to raise their family in a new neighbourhood still heavy with forest that often attracted wildlife like bears.
“It was a great place to grow up,” Ransom said, recalling hikes to nearby trails and lots of kids to share adventures.
Another neighbour, Doug Catton, said there was even a rifle range just across Guildford Drive, where townhouses now sit.
Catton and his wife, Ann, have lived in Coronation Park for 55 years. He said they’d like to stay in their home the rest of their lives, but they saw the writing on the wall when SkyTrain arrived across Ioco Road and in 2017 Port Moody council redesignated the area from single-family residential to dense mixed-use, opening the door to redevelopment.
Catton said while other developers had previously tried to buy out owners, Wesgroup seemed the most committed to its redevelopment plan.
But as the fate of that plan hangs in the balance (Port Moody council is scheduled to continue its consideration of first reading for bylaw and official community plan amendments this afternoon at 4 p.m., after debate abruptly halted early Wednesday morning), residents are living in “limbo,” he said. They feel imprisoned by the value of their homes as determined by their sales agreements with Wesgroup, yet unable to cash out that value and get on with their lives elsewhere until the company is able to proceed.
Some residents in the neighbourhood have moved out, renting their homes to young families who at least bring new vitality as they walk their babies up and down the hilly streets or their kids play in treed yards. A few homes sit empty. Others show signs of neglect, wooden siding that needs new paint, moss growing from roof shingles, cracked windows taped rather than replaced.
Ransom said the proceeds from the sale of his family’s house likely won’t allow him to stay in Port Moody. He’ll have to head east if he wants to buy another single-family home.
Catton said residents feel abandoned by the city that is seemingly unwilling to invest in a neighbourhood on the cusp of change. There’s no sidewalks. A street sweeper rarely visits.
“It hurts,” said Ann Catton.
Coun. Hunter Madsen said he’s acutely aware of the predicament faced by Coronation Park residents.
“It’s certainly sad for the owners who have been twisting in the wind,” he told council at its meeting Tuesday. “I really do get how miserable the situation has become.”
Wesgroup’s senior vice president of development, Brad Jones, said he empathizes with the residents.
“They’re asking for clarity, and so are we,” he told the Tri-City News.
Ransom, who moved back to the family home to help care for his aging mom, said the whole experience has been like a cold splash in the face.
“It’s a little stressful,” he said. “Land assemblies are not all they’re cracked up to be.”