10 noteworthy places in New West

This is a guest post by Rob Jones, who shares some of his first impressions of New Westminster as a new resident of our city. You can read more from Rob on his blog, The Delete Bin, and also find him on Twitter @clippernolan.

There are elements of every city that makes it unique, makes them feel like home.

My experience with big-small towns is well established, even if I am a recent resident of New Westminster. Like New West, my hometown of Oakville Ontario was founded next to a busy waterway; it was a shipbuilding centre when it was first founded in the 1800s, nestled against the expanse of Lake Ontario.

There are other similarities of course – the high streets, the parks, tree-lined streets, the cozy community feel, and even certain idiosyncrasies that don’t appeal to everyone, but help to make the place what it is.

So, with this in mind here are 10 places of noteworthiness that I’ve discovered in my first few months here in New Westminster. There are some you know, and maybe a few you haven’t thought much about. Yet, if its true first impressions you’re after from a New West newbie such as myself, you’ve come to the right place.

1. 6th and 6th

In living on the other side of the Fraser for the last few years, I really missed the old-fashioned high street, the main drag that is within walking distance of home. Having done time in the land of big box stores, malls the size of the Death Star, and traffic-clogged main streets that seem to be excuses for big brands to plaster their names all over everything, coming to a place where this is less the case was a welcome change.

6th and 6th.  Image courtesy of Dennis Hurd
6th and 6th. Image courtesy of Dennis Hurd

This is not to say that there aren’t big name stores along this intersection and surrounding area – there certainly are. But, somehow, the signs seem like less of a crass branding exercise, and more of a vital centre of small town commerce, even if this really isn’t a small town. This is one of the strengths of this area – maintaining that balance between the two solitudes of small town coziness and the convenience and energy of the city. 6th and 6th , and the surrounding area from the Library down to 4th avenue, epitomizes this for me.

2. Moody Park

Named after Colonel Richard Clement Moody (born in Barbados, where my dad was born and raised, coincidentally…) who founded New Westminster in 1859 , Moody Park rests between 6th Avenue and 8th avenue, and 10th street and 8th street. My daughter and I take walks there, conveniently located as it is just up the street from my apartment. It is a wonderland of monkey bars, slides, sporting fields, and soon enough, a pool too . The squirrels dart from tree to tree, hoping for alms from those walking their dogs or their kids. It is a place of innocence and good clean fun – by day at least.

My Daughter AKA 'The Girl'. Image courtesy of Adrienne Theissen of Gemeni Visuals

It’s also been the site of many awkward exchanges for me with other parents, while our children are busy becoming instant friends in the playground. Strange how that works; that certain things that are insurmountable as children are conquered with the experiences of adulthood, yet with some things lost, too. I’m talking about the ability to make instant connections, and to hitch one’s imaginations to those of another without a second thought, and without much effort if any at all.

3. The Salvation Army Store

Where can you get a blazer, a set of towels, a comforter, a Spider Robinson novel, and an old-fashioned bona fide Faerie Queen china doll in one trip for less than twenty bucks? It’s the Salvation Army superstore on Columbia street, right at the foot of 8th street, of course, with the promise of ‘1000s of items arriving daily!’

Salvation Army Store, Columbia Street New Westminster.  Image courtesy of Starksilver.com
Salvation Army Store, Columbia Street New Westminster. Image courtesy of Starksilvercreek.com

Recently, I’ve had the occasion to go hunting for housewares, which I could do at a WalMart I guess. But with a treasure trove of cheap and charitable goods right off of New Westminster Skytrain, I can’t think of why I would. In other communities, many of these items can be found in various box stores. But, that’s just shopping, isn’t it. I’d rather go on a treasure hunt any day. And in the Salvation Army store, that’s what it feels like every time.

4. ‘Wedding District’

I’ve never seen anything like it. All along Columbia Street are a collection of wedding dress stores and tuxedo rentals, parked right next to each other as if there aren’t any other places to get this sort of thing for miles around. Also, with the selection of florists along here, one could practically source everything one needs a wedding, including specialty items. Want a vampire theme? No problem – they’ve got a dress for that, and quasi-medieval menswear to match. Name it, and you can probably get married in it.

Image courtesy of Image in White, 554 Columbia Street, New Westminster
Image courtesy of Image in White, 554 Columbia Street, New Westminster

And with the Paramount theatre just down the street, where athletically-figured women remove their attire for the benefit of male patrons to the strains of yesterday’s hit parade, the Groom can have his stag while the flowers are decided upon – all in one district! That’s convenience! And I haven’t even mentioned the tattoo parlor, which (if they have any sense) must have an ongoing two-for-one lovebird special. It gets you to the church on time, kids!

5. 8th street hill

Before I moved here, I had the occasion to climb the hill in order to pick up my car from Artman Automotive. The shop, actually run by a knowledgeable and honest guy called Art, and is on Royal Avenue near Douglas College. This is roughly at the crest of one of the steepest hills I’ve ever had to climb, just shy of ‘Historic Brow of the Hill’, where I now reside these many years later.

And here is the station at the bottom of the hill - the place of decision-making: bus or walk?  Image courtesy of  Fujitariuji.  Click image to view Flickr stream
And here is the station at the bottom of the hill - the place of decision-making: bus or walk? Image courtesy of Fujitariuji. Click image to view Flickr stream

During my ascent, being reminded of my mortality the whole way, the best adjective to describe me on achieving the crest of Royal avenue from 8th street was ‘vincible’, as in the opposite of invincible. But, once I caught my breath, I found that the view is incredible – the river, the expanse of downtown New West and the shores of North Delta, and the fatigued Douglas College students climbing the hill from New West Skytrain Station as if searching for Enlightenment itself. Yet, do I climb this hill everyday on foot, or do I take the trusty 123 bus, even if I have to wait without shelter, knee-deep in cigarette butts, and within earshot of multiple one-way teenaged cellphone conversations? I’ll let you guess, but the answer is as easy as 1-2-3.

6. The Quay

This is another locale for me and my daughter; for walks and talks, lots of questions for her part, and few answers for mine. The quay is our place for paying homage to the world’s tallest tin soldier, the tugboat (courtesy of Expo ’86, and moved to New Westminster Quay the following year), the beautiful gardens, and the ducks and other waterfowl who walk the same routes as any quaysider in a living example of interspecies respect and understanding.

From New Westminster Quay.  Image Courtesy of Intelligent Calcium.  Click image to view Flickr Stream
From New Westminster Quay. Image Courtesy of Intelligent Calcium. Click image to view Flickr Stream

The quay has been the host of many an event since I’ve been here, from Philippines Independence Day celebrations to Canada Day Fireworks. It is a vibrant gathering place for the community, young and old. If only they’d open the Market again! What’s up with that?

7. Queen’s Park

One has to respect a town who celebrates the traditions of blowing sh*t up so enthusiastically. I am of course talking about my first trip to Queen’s Park during the Hyack Festival Anvil Salute, which occurs every year on the occasion of Victoria Day, the day in which we honour of the monarch who named this town of ours.

Image courtesy of CanadaGood.  Click image to view Flickr stream.
Image courtesy of CanadaGood. Click image to view Flickr stream.

Queen’s Park is a shady environs where monkey bars and slides live along side an honest to goodness petting zoo – goats, sheep, and rabbits, not to mention non-pettable peacocks. But, when we were there, it was all about the gunpowder n’ noise in Queen’s Park Stadium . The combustibly-derived racket in question is perpetrated by guys dressed in some sort of period garb that might be described as Special Forces British Morris Dancers with demolition expertise. These flamboyantly attired fellows blow up anvils using very long fuses to the delight of a significant crowd. Where else are you going to get to see something like that?

8. Antique Alley

Right along the railroad tracks on Front Street is Antique alley, a series of storefronts under the shade of the parking garage built above the road, supporting the parking requirements of shoppers and tourists that frequent Columbia Street and the Quay. There are antique shops along here of course, but also specialty clothing stores including a goth boutique, which is adequately rife with shadows, spacious as a cathedral crypt, and haunted by a very affectionate cat called Merlin.

Antique Alley, from Columbia avenue.  Image courtesy of Silly G Wailo.  Click image to view Flickr Stream
Antique Alley, from Columbia Street. Image courtesy of Silly G Wailo. Click image to view Flickr Stream

What’s most striking to me is how full of character this strip is, yet how underdeveloped it is too. So many of the storefronts are seemingly abandoned, and some which aren’t just look like they are. Maybe this area is too closed off from the high street to be accessible, or profitable. Yet, it is charmingly seedy, and bursting with potential for more speciality stores, and in my imagination, a series of small music venues within stumbling distance of the Skytrain and bus services.

9. The Waffle House

Three of my favourite words in succession have to be ‘all day breakast’. And waffles are comfort food, loaded with life-shortening, yet exceedingly life-affirming, butter and syrup, washed down with cup after cup of coffee. The Waffle House on 6th street provides all of this, plus free newspapers and (otherwise) no frills, and all in the commercial shadow of the IHOP, mere meters away. Yet, where else can you order something called a Jiffy Wiffy Waffle with a straight face?

I have hosted two female friends at this establishment at different times in recent weeks, which make me think that the staff there, if they remember me at all, must think of me as the kind of guy to use waffles in some kind of low rent seduction tactic, or possibly as a means of recompense for not living up to seduction’s promise. Where this is of course not the case (both women are good friends of mine), I think the tactic might have legs.

10. 22nd Street Station

One of the first Skytrain stations I’d ever used was this one, dropped off after having visited a girlfriend of mine many years ago. I remember thinking that it was a commuter hub that was randomly plunked in the middle of nowhere. Yet 6th avenue and the Queensborough Bridge seem to draw significant traffic into it. I’ve come to know it as the ‘buses graveyard’, or ‘the land of apologizing buses’ – Sorry Not In Service. I wish they wouldn’t say ‘sorry’. But, I guess we are in Canada, aren’t we. Personally, I think ‘Out of Service – Deal With It’ would be more apropos.

22nd Street Station - busy, yet dead at the same time.  Image courtesy of FreakyChick.  Click image to view Flickr stream.
22nd Street Station - busy, yet dead at the same time. Image courtesy of FreakyChick. Click image to view Flickr stream.

Having come to use this station more and more, I think it really needs a reboot – maybe a bookstore, a café, even a convenience store. It needs something there where commuters, parents, and antsy teenagers heading into Richmond, can spend their time while their buses contemplate how sorry they are over the sin of being out of service. Perhaps the commuter traffic, and the revenue-generating traffic to any establishments placed there, might make that sin easier to forgive?

Here it is: I feel at home in New Westminster.

I like that it is community-based and there are a lot of places to take my daughter without having to drive. I like that it’s a bit weird too, like the time a guy yelled at me from across the street, asking me if I wanted to buy his radial arm saw – cash money, natch. I like that I can get Wifi in any number of retail locations within walking distance. I like that historic locations are treasured here, and that this town has memory – so many don’t. And I like that Stephen King’s IT was filmed here, perversely perhaps.

As a new resident, do I feel that there is room for improvement? Sure I do. But, it’s character that I most value in a place where I call home. And New West certainly has character. It has light and dark tones, civic pride, and urban decay. Yet, it is the spririt of the place that counts, defined as it is with a sense of history, blemishes and all.

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36 Replies to “10 noteworthy places in New West”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree re: 22nd St Station.

    It’s been my home station since I began riding skytrain many years ago – bussing out from North Delta to train into Vancouver, or east into Whalley. On rainy nights, or especially cold, winter nights, when the winds blowing up from the south/east pelt our faces with snow or rain, and turn up our umbrellas as we wait sometimes an hour or more for our busses, I’m reminded that there are few (if any) other stations or bus exchanges with similar locations, and none so exposed without a place to warm up.

    Certainly there’s enough room underneath the station near the bike lockers for a large cafe/commuter lounge. We know it would see lots of business, and it could even be accessed via the inside of the station if the employee break lounge was moved a bit. Come on Translink, let’s do it!

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  3. Thanks for comments everyone!

    It's been fun getting to know my new home, and my post above may betray my love of simple pleasures. As such, I think New West suits me down to the ground.

    I've had a bee in my bonnet about 22nd Street station ever since I moved to the Lower Mainland. This not only includes its seemingly remote location, but also the little things about it. Of these little things, one is that in their wisdom, Translink have made the 100 Airport bus the furthest bay away from the SkyTrain exit. It seems an odd choice to me, given that people are likely to have more stuff to lug around with them (like, say, luggage) when they are making a mad dash to the bus. This is just one example.

    As for a cafe or bookstore, or convenience store, or whatever, I think there is enormous potential not just to serve commuters, but also to serve residents of the area, too. A little place you can get a snack, a coffee, and maybe a comfy chair to while away an afternoon would be at least as handy to someone living there as it would be to a commuter who is sheltering from the merciless elements, waiting (often far too long!) for a bus into North Delta, Surrey or Richmond. And a place to use the bathroom wouldn't go amiss, either.

  4. Rob, I really enjoyed this post. Several points made me truly LOL.

    Thanks again for a great NEW WEST review!

  5. We also use Artman Automotive. I’ve never dealt with Art, but Will thinks he’s great. I’m also among the 22nd St. crew who would LOVE to see some small-scale commercial development around there – or at least a cafe!

  6. Great entry! I love 22nd street skytrain station too. Maybe 10th to the Fraser needs to start a cafe there. 🙂

  7. Rob: Yes, as a resident in the area, I can say that I would definitely visit a cafe or whatever by the SkyTrain! There aren’t a lot of options – most of the stores on 20th have shuttered, and 12th is a bit of a hike if you’re on foot. The best option currently is to hop on the SkyTrain and go somewhere else!

  8. @Briana (and others) You, know I never thought about it in detail before a few months ago, but 22nd Street really is a doorway to at least 4 municipalities, not including New West itself. Maybe this is why it hasn’t been built up properly – that people are constantly hopping on the SkyTrain to go somewhere else.

    But, I think every residential community needs a centre – a place to meet. Otherwise to me, it’s just a bunch of houses, and I’ve lived in areas like this recently. I truly think that the SkyTrain station is a great place to built up a light commercial centre, again if not for commuters, but for the significant population who live there. This makes it less a doorway, and more of a destination. To that, it can be both.

  9. Your welcome, Will. It means a lot coming from someone who grew up in New West.

    As for me, there's a lot more to explore it seems. I haven't been to the Bug Museum yet!

  10. Hey Rob & Briana!

    First, I just want to say great article — all this reminiscing is making me want to hang out in New West more 🙂

    I also have an update from SkyTrain about development in 22nd Street Station. Here's what they've told me:

    "Certainly, SkyTrain is a big proponent of expanding retail space at SkyTrain stations. Bringing more "life" to our stations is an important part of our renewed focus on community livability and excellence in customer service.

    A potential retail opportunity has been identified at 22nd Street station. (Retail opportunity means a "space" has been identified at the station. There is no word yet on a possible tenant.)

    Our staff is working with New Westminster Planning to ensure the proper zoning is in place (the area is currently not zoned for commercial use)."

    So, any business that is interested in occupying the retail space should contact BCRTC (that's the BC Rapid Transit Company, the organization that actually runs SkyTrain). Write to John McClurg at linking@intergate.ca or call him at 604 818 6067 — John is BCRTC's Retail Supervisor and will be able to handle your requests.

  11. Jhenifer, that's fantastic news! Please keep us posted on any news on that potential retail development there, and at the other four New West stations!

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  13. @Jhenifer. Fantastic news! I hope that the "space" which has been identified is a significant one. To me, it's not only important to have things to buy while waiting for a bus, but also to have a place to be, that doesn't involve shivering in the cold in February for upwards of a half-hour when rush hour isn't on.

    This is of course not to mention the value it would bring to the surrounding residents. Since it is such a hub of traffic coming in from all over the GVRD, why not pull out all the stops and have a retail centre equivalent to Commercial Drive Station?

    Regardless, excellent news! I'll be looking forward to seeing how things develop.

  14. @ Rob J – the Bug Museum is run by the Bug Lady (aka Jennifer Heron) who wrote a guest post for us about good bugs in your garden. Its a great place to check out!

  15. Well, retail centres like the ones near Commercial Drive would be up to the city of New Westminster to plan and build. The specific retail space on 22nd St Station property is under SkyTrain control, so SkyTrain can work on that little piece right away.

    1. Good wishing people. If you are waiting for the City to develop anything to do with business, other than in Waynesville (downtown) forget it.
      The West End Business Association is hosting a "Town Hall Meeting" Tuesday, November 23rd at the Village Coffee Lounge 705 12th Street (or if numbers are great enough, at CAW hall 707 12th)
      Our first presenter at 7:00 PM is Mtchell Edgar, the Economic Development manager for the City. That might be an opportunity to get started. Once that is done we all have to work break the myth that "New West is not a retail business friendly City"

      1. John I'm very interested in this, but isn't that the same night as the West End Residents Association AGM?

  16. @Jhenifer Understood. A lot of what I'm talking about here may well rest in the land of unicorns, pots of gold, and kindly RIAA lawyers. But, I'm saying it because I think that's what should be. Still, it's encouraging that TransLink are thinking not just about the efficiencies of the system, and have an eye toward building up communities as well.

  17. What a great list! Heartfelt and makes me feel much more tender about the city.

    Be glad the Westminster Quay Public Market is being overhauled, though; in its latest incarnation it was pretty depressed. Fingers crossed for the new version.

    And re: 22nd st. station – whatever the powers-that-be end up doing with the space, please make it so that all those dudes will stop peeing against the wall behind the 155 / 154 bus stop.

  18. @Jen – cheers for the additional info. The very idea of a Bug Museum appeals to me. And I think the Girl will love it, too.

  19. Cheesefairy: Obviously 22nd St. Station needs a proper toilet. I can't count the number of times I've seen men pissing on the side of the building by the railroad tracks. Is it poor planning on their part? Seriously, can't they hold it one stop until they can find a public bathroom?

  20. @Briana @Cheesefairy. The toilet thing is an important point, and not one restricted to 22nd Street station. I myself have never peed there. But, I've wanted to. Desparately. I'm surprised that there aren't more bus riders such as myself doing the pee-pee jive while waiting for the bus. I suppose most of them pee against the wall instead. It's more dignified that way.

    And planning for it is important too, you're right. "Always go before you leave", says established wisdom. And I have. But, after a few pints after work, sometimes the bladder has a will of its own. And there are no potty breaks from Downtown Vancouver to 22nd Street Station, or Scott Road for that matter. Believe me – I know that all too well.

    I believe the lack of bathrooms is to decrease the possibility of mess, and the requirement for personnel onsite to clean it up. It's also a way, I imagine, to discourage illegal trade since bathrooms are enclosed, unsupervised places. So, we all have to hold it, for the good of the lowest common denominator. I'd be sad about that, if I wasn't so angry about it too.

  21. Rob,

    Just a further comment that I did a group research project around the washroom issue when I was in university around 4 years ago; the lack of washrooms is a system-wide issue. You've identified many of the basic challenges, around the funding of upkeep, maintenance, and making sure the washrooms are used only what they're supposed to be for. I've seen public urination in Burnaby and in downtown Vancouver (in the middle of the day). Ironically, union rules most likely ensure that there are actually (as far as I know, my info might be old) washrooms at all SkyTrain stations and most interchanges; they're just not advertised for public use and are accessible only to drivers and staff.

  22. Thanks for the comment, Laura.

    It makes sense that SkyTrain employees should have access to washrooms. It wouldn’t be much fun to work for SkyTrain otherwise.

    The thing that burns me is that the reasons there aren’t bathrooms in public places like SkyTrain station is because of the underbelly of society preclude them from being viable – too many vandals, drug dealers, whatever, that turn public places into liabilities instead of conveniences.

  23. Great points, Rob! You have captured some of the places that I have recently discovered as a new resident of New West. There is one place missing, that is the yummiest and most political burger joint around: Burger Heaven. You can eat an ostrich burger, baked yam wedges, and drink a sambuca-spiked shake and then roll back up the hill home. During elections you can cast your vote as you order your favourite candidate’s burger namesake.


  24. Hey Karen – cheers!

    And yes, Burger Heaven. I’ve noticed it, heard about it, not gone in. You and the other half, and me and the Girl should make a date, I think.

    I’ve had ostrich burgers before, actually, although I was admonished by hippies whilst in the line to pay. It was in England at the Glastonbury Festival, where ostrich burgers and hippies co-reside uneasily.

    Also, in relation to this post, I noticed recently that washrooms are being constructed for use at 22nd street station. But, they’re for staff, not for public use. I asked. I suppose nature calls for bus drivers, too who will presumably be given keys. Not much use after the pub for the rest of us. Remember: take care of it before you leave the pub, ’cause there’s no sleep (or, you know…) ’til home.

  25. there must be a solution! i took a visiting friend out to dinner and noticed men peeing on garbage bins, in parking lots and outside restaurants. we need New West to set up urinals or subsidize potty access at a few places. at 6th and 6th it is no problem. but down the hill….nasty.
    cant wait to shop at the Quay again
    i discovered a place many already know about,Asuka Sushi at 7th and 12th. was super impressed at the quality and we ate lots of variety.
    today i shopped Sapperton, not easy with all the workers ripping things up but good quality and good prices too

  26. I wanted to comment on the bathroom issues.

    Translink is in the business of transportation.

    It is my opinion the various cities are responsible to have public washrooms, and deal with the issues that go along with them. The tax and fares for our public system are high enough without the additional costs of having to maintain and patrol facilities that are not utilized for there intended purpose.

    Btw – Nice story, how about a flopside {-The Ten Not Worthy places in New West-}


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