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This week, a look at a municipal town centre that’s trying to create a regional transit-oriented development – before transit has arrived.

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High Street

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By some overly simple criteria, Coquitlam City Centre (C3) is a success because it’s attracting a remarkable amount of high-density development for a municipality in the upper northeast corner of the region, 25 kilometers from the downtown core, M3with congested arterials and without rapid transit (but at least along the West Coast Express commuter-rail route).

Now that the Evergreen Line has been funded (expected to be open in the Summer of 2016), more projects are underway (MThree, left).  As a sign of commitment, even Coquitlam Centre Mall is helping to fund an additional stop – Lincoln Station.

An organzing, urbanizing element of C3(and a radical departure from the precepts of Motordom) is The High Street – a right-of-way that runs from City Hall to the shopping mall, and is meant to provide the scale and services of a traditional retail street.  It’s taken a couple of decades, but the vision is now essentially complete.

Even a few years ago, there were signficiant voids in the form of surface parking lots – still evident in Streetview:

High Street before

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Today, this:

Infill

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It meets all of the ‘City Comforts’ rules that determine whether you have a city or a suburb.

  • Built to the sidewalk (i.e., property line).
  • Building fronts are “permeable” (i.e., no blank walls).
  • No parking lots in front.

… as do the other buildings that line The High Street, some with more architectural success than others.  But as a whole, whether retail or residential, High Street is scaled for the pedestrian, even as the towers rise above.  It’s also wide enough (perhaps a bit too much) to accommodate normal traffic lanes and one row of parking, raised slightly above grade:

Coq + streetwall Coq - 3

DSC04259

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The trees are tall and well spaced; there is pedestrian lighting; there are rain-protecting canopies and awnings; the street furniture, bike racks and fittings are often artful.

And then, opening up just before The High Street meets the City Hall plaza, there is Spirit Square – a gathering place, “created to help celebrate BC150 – the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Crown Colony of British Columbia,” funded in part by the Province.  Salmon, as you can tell, is a very popular motif: in the iconic sculpture, in the design of the gratings, and, in Coquitlam’s case, still in its rivers and creeks.

Coq 1 Intro Coq Spirit SquareCoq + 5

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The square is well-proportioned and landscaped, outfitted with lighting for special events, and clearly connected to the public spaces at City Hall and The High Street, reinforcing the diagonal that permeates an otherwise overscaled suburban block.

DSC04260

DSC04264

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In this part of C3, there is an abundance of thoughtful planning, well-articulated urban design, quality materials, and a long-term commitment by all involved.

And yet …