The ODCP is described by the City as, “a comprehensive strategy that outlines sustainable, high density growth in the city’s downtown core while respecting heritage assets, and provides for new amenities such as parks, cultural and recreational services, improved access to the Fraser River and promotes transit oriented employment.” The lead architect of the plan is Director of Development Services Lisa Spitale.
I reached Lisa via email to get her thoughts on the award:
TF: What is the significance of this award for New Westminster?
Lisa: This is an important award for the City as it is the first time that we have received a Merit Award from the International Downtown Association (IDA). The IDA is an organization specializing in Downtown issues – revitalization strategies, crime prevention, housing affordability, urban design, heritage conservation, parking, etc. As you know, New Westminster has been dealing with revitalization issues in the Downtown for well over two decades. The award confirms that, as a community, we’re on the right track.
TF: What do you think was the “winning factor” in the city’s submission?
Lisa: If I had to speculate I would say our plan probably challenged the industry’s preconception of what an OCP typically looks like, reads like, etc.
TF: What is special/unique about New Westminster’s Downtown Community Plan?
Lisa: I think it is unique in two areas:
- Many OCPs do not detail historical stories in the way we did in this plan. Why? We believe that you can not understand the community values of the Downtown without understanding its incredible history. And we wanted to make the Downtown stories as accessible as possible.
- Big Vision. This plan makes no apology for thinking big – we talk about encapsulation of Front street and connectivity of the waterfront recognizing they are long term goals. The Plan tries to get all of us (the community, the development industry, businesses, etc) on the same page, so that we can collectively envision the Downtown in the next 10, 30, 50 and even 70 years.
TF: Ten years from now, what do you think will be different about our downtown?
Lisa: Great question! I truly believe the Downtown will be quite different than it is today. More residents will be living all throughout the Downtown in townhouses and apartments; the elementary school will be well established and acting as a community hub; the arts will be thriving along Columbia street with our civic facility in full operation; people will be going to the movie theatres, watching a play or going to restaurants in the evening; and more people will be experiencing the waterfront with the new park at Westminster Pier and the return of “the people place” at the River Market.
TF: Will you be attending the October conference to accept the award?
Lisa: I can not attend; however, I hope my staff can attend and accept our award.
Note: this post was edited after it was originally published to remove some broken links and correct my misunderstanding of some details of the award. Specifically, I had written that New West beat out 73 competing submissions for the award, but later learned that I had misunderstood the press release (which stated only that there were a total of 73 submissions). My apologies for any misunderstandings due to the error.