New West wins award for Official Downtown Community Plan

Beating out 73 competing submissions, The City of New Westminster has won the 2010 Downtown Merit Award from the Washington-based International Downtown Association on the strength of our Official Downtown Community Plan.

The City of New Westminster has won a 2010 Downtown Merit Award from the Washington-based International Downtown Association on the strength of our Official Downtown Community Plan.

Columbia Street, then and now (1932 and 2008). Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd, via Flickr.
Columbia Street, then and now (1932 and 2008). Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd, via Flickr.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

Briana Tomkinson is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.


  1. This is huge. Kudos to Mayor & Council and our talented planning department. This confirms what local's have felt for years, that the our downtown has massive but unrecognized potential. The downtown is key to the fortunes of the whole city. It's going to be fun watching the ongoing transformation.

  2. I like dbrett's comment. I agree it's HUGE !
    And the locals have known for years that the downtown has massive unrecognized potential.
    Finally it has been recognized by an American association, based out of Washignton D.C., with the awards ceremony being held in Fortworth Texas, wouldn't miss it for the world.

    Yee Haw, Saddle up your pony, we gots us an Award outs in New Wild West Mister don't yous fogets it.


    P.s.- I wonder if the taxpayer is paying for our membership, did you check out the due's structure on the website. Ouch.

  3. That Lisa, we are so lucky to have her, I sure hope she gets an award for her Peir Park too. The Mayor should give her a raise for all she has done, in fact everybody deserves a raise for a job well done! I wonder if we could afford to send a large delagation to Texas to claim the award, we could have our very own fan club go as well.

  4. Oh Oh Oh !

    This just in !

    If you check out the IDA website, the New West Mister submission is from CO.

    Thats Colorado Mister, not Canada Ae

    Opppsee Daisee


      1. Generally speaking, I am typing into a keyboard, I don't want a newfangled fancy computer that I can talk into I do have arrow keys to move the cursor around….
        is that what you mean ?
        Or is it my foniks ?
        Huqed on Foniks


  5. Lisa should get an award for her Peir Park alright but I am not thinking the same type of award as you. To spend a reported $2000 per taxpayer on a park a few feet away from a major train and truck route goes beyond believe. Very interesting letter in the local paper on weekend about Lisa's Peir Park. I am sure the city will send some of their staff south to pick up her down town award at the taxpayers expense. This would never happen in Burnaby!

  6. Has anyone bothered to ask the IDA what the "Award of Merit" is? I called the IDA and you might be surprised. That the planning department deserves credit is not the issue – they do. Having been involved in the public process it was a grueling experience to say the least. Did it make everyone happy – you never will. Did they beat out 73 other submissions – NO. Are they getting presented an award in October – NO. They receive a certificate and a letter in the mail from an association to which we as a city have a membership. As I mentioned I don't want to under value the recondition but lets keep it real and not embellish the acknowledgment for what it really is. You may want to download our winning submission before the link posted above is removed. The contact at the IDA was not too happy it was posted and informed me that it was not intended for public access.

    1. Very interesting James! I didn't call the IDA but I did go to their website to try to find out more information on the award. The link to the submissions is public (I found it via Google). I guess they didn't realize it? All the info in the post was based on what I found on the IDA website and the information in the city's press release. The conversation with Lisa is shared in its entirety.

    1. Guess it was a mistake then! Maybe they didn't think anyone outside their organization would be interested in viewing the presentations!

  7. They are on to you and Briana – you and your friend Lisa are under the microscope – this is a small town be careful

    1. Don't be ridiculous. There is nothing to be "on to." As I've said again and again, I write this blog as a citizen and it's nothing more than a collection of individuals' thoughts about life in New West. There is no agenda. If I'm under someone's microscope, they're wasting energy better spent looking elsewhere.

      For the record, I only know Lisa from the newspapers. My first and only conversation with her is in the email above.

      I am deeply disappointed in how many people just can't accept that New West got some positive recognition. Why are you so bent on seeing the worst in people?

    2. I agree BMC, this is a really small town with really fat cats.

      Regarding Briana's interview with Lisa, it was nice. It really showcases Spitales abilities to make facts revolve at such a velocity they become grandiose !

      Look, I know the press releases, and reporters play into the script. The good reporter does a little trowel work, now we know for a fact that there was about a dozen planning submissions, not 73. So right off the bat you can tell something is askew with the cities PR. Back in the day they called it Fact Checking.

      Those were the days….


  8. Good work JC !

    Like I've been saying, our media is in the back pocket of city hall. Simple research.
    The facts speak for themselves in this instance, and I am proud to be one of the people who spit the truth all the while The Record was turning this into front page news.

    Now that IDA has gone and removed that link speaks volumes to that associations integrity.

    As a taxpayer why do I want to be paying those IDA dues for this nonsense ? Smarten up !!!!
    The one point I disagree with JC on this one is the planning departments (diminishing) credit.


    1. Norman: the page with the submissions was obviously intended to be private, and I guess they didn't expect anyone to dig it up through search, or they intended to password-protect it and didn't. I don't think it says anything about the organization's integrity. It's the International Downtown Association, not the International Internet Security Association!

      The facts do speak for themselves. New West won an award for planning, after years of criticism for poor work in that department. There's no controversy here. MOVE ON!

      1. Well Briana, I have to disagree with the page intending to be private. I did some crawling around on that site too, the layout was clearly intended that you click on the submissions to view the powerpoints etc. I looked at quiet a few actually. What is so secret about that to remove it ? You said yourself you found it in a public search. The reason it's gone is because of what we're doing here, exposing the truth, you should be proud, this story is great, it has legs and is running !

        And how could they not expect someone to do some digging when our City hall makes such an embellished press release to garner front page media attention on itself ?

        The fact are that the taxpayer paid for this award through the dues to this association. Why do we need to be a member in the first place.

        Can't we win without being a member ?

        What's the ROI ?


        1. Well, it's speculation, but I think that the IDA is not used to outsiders making so big a fuss about their organization. I think they probably assumed that only members or related stakeholders would have any interest in looking at the submissions. That's my theory. But whatever, it doesn't really matter.

          I believe the contest is for members, and I would think the ROI, as in any other member organization, is access to insight from other members. Membership probably provides access to professional development resources that city staff would not otherwise access. If it's like other professional associations I've been a part of, it also provides networking opportunities for members so they can learn from other cities' experiences. Likely the organization also uses its clout to raise awareness of issues specific to downtowns everywhere, in the hopes of influencing public policy and perhaps also media coverage of those issues.

          There's some indication of this in the IDA's mission statement, on their website:

          "The International Downtown Association is a world leader and champion for vital and livable urban centers. Through its network of committed individuals, its rich body of knowledge, and its unique capacity to nurture community-building partnerships, IDA is a guiding force in creating healthy and dynamic centers that anchor the well-being of towns, cities and regions throughout the world.
          IDA accomplishes its mission by providing a rich and unparalleled combination of learning and information resources, including:

          Two conferences annually, in the Spring and Fall
          A Leadership Forum every two years
          IDA Advisory Panels and Advisory Visits
          Board Retreats and Planning Sessions
          Publications targeted especially to downtown professionals
          IDA BrainTrust, a panel of more than 100 downtown experts
          IDA Downtown Achievement Awards
          IDA Policy, Research and Practice Initiatives
          IDAdvantage, our monthly newsletter."

          There's also more in the membership benefits section:

          "As a member of IDA, you find answers through:
          Conferences and workshops, where you’ll meet the best in the business, hear from internationally renowned speakers, and take home new ideas, skills, and techniques.
          Annual Leadership forums in North America and the Caribbean, where you’ll have the opportunity to wrestle with the toughest issues facing downtowns, and have access to the latest information from think-tanks, government and business leaders, and other associations.
          A totally revamped website, where you’ll find reports, sample documents, and an online membership directory with links to over 700 downtown organizations, consultants, and service providers in North America and abroad.
          Newsletters and bulletins, with up-to-the-minute information on new developments, job openings, and news about other members.
          Downtown Achievement Awards – the “Oscars” – a collection of great ideas and great accomplishments by downtown organizations, large and small.
          Advisory Panels, when you need a multidisciplinary consulting team to build consensus, set direction, and create a strategic framework for your downtown.
          Exclusive Publications available through the IDA website on topics such as BIDs, Urban Design, Retail, Planning, Parking, Transportation, Homelessness, Marketing & Branding and more."

          1. Yup, saw those things too. Particularly liked the annual Caribbean leadership forums. Such is the life of those with access to your hard earned tax dollars to engage in "professional development" on the beach !

            Should have cut and pasted the membership dues !

          2. Ha ha good one ! I like the details on page 5. Bury it !
            Look, I boil it down to this, the OCP is a requirement under the Community charter, so the plan is for the citizens of the community, not for PR.
            The reward to city hall should be happy citizens paying as little tax as possible 🙂
            I'm not the only person, this JC guy is apparently know as James by your wife, and he did a lot more digging then I did on the subject. We seem to agree on the fact of # of submissions being not 73, and in general, embellishment of the facts.


  9. Operating Budget/Gross Revenue Dues Levels (US$)
    $75,000 and under $305
    $75,001 – $100,000 $355
    $100,001 – $300,000 $455
    $300,001 – $600,000 $660
    $600,001 – $1,000,000 $860
    $1,000,001 – 2,000,000 $1,110
    $2,000,001 – $3,000,000 $1,415
    $3,000,001 – $4,000,000 $1,615
    $4,000,001 – $5,000,000 $1,920
    $5,000,001 – $7,500,000 $2,325
    $7,500,001 – $10,000,000 $2,625
    Individual and Academic $305
    Student Virtual $55
    International Virtual $105

    Maybe you couldn't find it. I sure hope it's a student virtual 🙂


    1. Honestly, I was expecting a lot more. In the world of professional dues and associations, this one is pretty light. My business unit pays more to half a dozen associations, I am sure. Even a high school teacher might pay more (or close to) to the BC College of Teachers (not to mention BCTF).

      Still, it is an expense in the budget and that expense has to be weighed against the benefits, so as a point of argument, it is useful to challenge.

      1. BCCoT – 90 bucks a year cheap
        your a vet and want the privilege of setting up shop ? 1500 bucks a year thank you very much
        there are a ton of 'regulated' professionals, like lawyers, doctors, engineers, pharmacists, etc etc to a code of conduct and ethics. Some cheaper, some more expensive..

        Kudo's for changing the first paragraph, and adding the footnote. You don't want to get SUED ! 🙂
        You sure don't see mainstream media print retractions unless it has to do with an Advertised price discrepancy !!

        Good work !


Comments are closed.

Tenth to the Fraser