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More office space sought for City Centre

Coquitlam looking to find ways to attract more commercial properties to downtown
Office graphic

Sure, development has been going great guns in Coquitlam's City Centre neighbourhood ever since the municipality came up a with an area plan a decade ago. 

But not when it comes to office space. 

A report presented by Bruce Irvine, manager of planning projects and community planning, to council on Monday said City Centre has fallen behind what was envisioned back in 2008. He said if the city chose to stay the course it would still thrive and benefit, however he suggested council could take a more aggressive approach to transform it into a true downtown.

In his written report, Irvine proposed potential strategies could include developing "catalyst civic and community amenity projects, and establishing viable character areas such as an arts district or an entertainment district."

Council members were all for being bolder in a bid to attract the business to City Centre it envisioned a decade ago.

"It's easy to be critical in hindsight, mostly because we didn't have policies strong enough to make sure those things happened," said Coun. Chris Wilson. "Now we're at a point where we've had a lot of development in the area… [But] we have not achieved what we hoped to achieve."

Wilson noted Port Moody recently got an eight-storey office building when a developer, Onni, decided it would be a better option than the hotel it first proposed for its Suter Brook development while Coquitlam has had no new office space development.

"Our policies need to be stronger," said Wilson. "We need to be more demanding. We need to start to require more [office space] in new development. The current land owners have made a lot more money than we ever thought.

"We have such potential, but we really have to make it happen. We can't be as tentative as we have been."

Coun. Brent Asmundson believes a moratorium should be put on office space being built in downtown Vancouver so it could be spread throughout the region which would ease the pressure on its transportation systems.

Mayor Richard Stewart said the city needs to focus on what direction it should go. But, he added, the city can be handcuffed because the market is highly skewed toward downtown Vancouver and Coquitlam is one of the "victims of a system that makes a lot of those decisions for us."

"We have to find a way to get those employment land uses in our City Centre," said Stewart.

However, Coun. Terry O'Neill said with office vacancy rates falling in the region the city might not need to create incentives because the situation could "actually take care of itself."

Irvine said the staff is still doing background work on how the city could become more "aspirational" in attracting business, and when it's done will present the ideas to council in a workshop. He also said he's picked up a few ideas to consider during the discussion with council.

In the meantime, the city held a community info session on the future of City Centre at Coquitlam Centre on Tuesday. Another will be held Saturday, June 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.