COQUITLAM: City eyes green streets following Watkins Ave. pilot program

The Watkins Avenue green street pilot program in Coquitlam has been a success and now a framework needs to be developed to allow the initiative to spread to other parts of the city.

That was the message from planning staff during Monday's council-in-committee meeting when they presented a series of ideas on how the program could be enhanced and improved.

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The Watkins Avenue green street was approved in 2006, turning the block between Collins Road and Marguerite Street on Burke Mountain into a lawn-covered park.

Michael Dhaliwal, a development planner with the city, said the initiative has been popular with residents in the area.

"Overall, it has been a safe, comfortable and connecting place," he said. "A lot of residents said they felt they wouldn't know their neighbours without being connected to the street."

The Watkins Avenue green space is 70 m long and 20 m wide. To allocate for the loss of parking and a front road access, the lanes behind the homes that line the park are 6.6 m curb to curb, wider than the traditional 4.5 m.

A survey of residents in a 100 m area around the block found that most people favour having the green space in their neighbourhood. Of the 28 respondents, 92% said they would buy their home again on the green street. Another 60% who do not live on the green street said they would buy a home in front of the green space.

There was also no indication that the green street hurt property values, Dhaliwal said, noting that homes on Watkins Avenue sold for similar prices as homes on regular streets in the area.

The survey also found that:

80% of respondents said visitors were able to find parking;

82% of respondents owned two or fewer cars;

and 79% of respondents said they used the green street regularly.

"Generally, adults have been using the space to interact with neighbours," Dhaliwal said. "Children have been using the space for outdoor play."

Still, staff made several recommendations they said council should consider when moving forward with a framework for green streets.

The city is responsible for mowing the lawn on the green space and the land is public property. But Dhaliwal said that to some residents, the park seems like a private area reserved only for the homeowners on the street.

"Sometimes, they seem like they are private," he said. "If it were more open, it might seem less private."

The city should consider naming the parks and building playground equipment on future green streets, he said, adding that programming for the spaces could also be implemented.

But not all council members were in favour of the changes put forward by staff. Several at the council-in-committee table said adding parking stalls and other amenities could turn the streets into destinations rather than a localized green space for the surrounding neighbourhood.

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@GMcKennaTC

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