The next decade’s downtown New West: cool, urban, alive and vibrant
This is a guest post by Robert Fung, New West booster and president of The Salient Group, whose Trapp Block redevelopment is considered a key element to the revitalization of our downtown. Robert founded The Salient Group in 2000 after a decade of development work with Concord Pacific and then the Narland Group. Actively involved in the community, Robert is currently a member of the UBC Board of Governors as well as a director of the UBC Properties Trust.
It’s an exciting time for Downtown New Westminster. Metro Vancouverites are starting to realize what New West residents have known all along: that the Royal City is a great place to live, and the downtown is a cool and urban place, alive with the promise of a vibrant future.
Local businesses are taking notice. Media is also paying attention, as demonstrated by the recent Georgia Straight feature about New West.
I was initially attracted to the history and urban character of downtown New Westminster and by the potential of the area. What I saw was a beautiful large building that had been vacant for decades — a terrible “lost opportunity” to the economy of the downtown. We saw a chance to help bolster an economic revitalization by investing in and redeveloping a section of the lower mainland’s most important commercial centres. And, at the same time, to provide great homes at affordable pricing in a city that has the most accessible transit connections in the Lower Mainland.
Aesthetically, I was also attracted to the handsome historic Columbia Street buildings. The Trapp Block façade is among the most beautiful in our region.
As I’ve mentioned in a recent Royal City Record interview, the resurgence of downtown New Westminster is not unlike that of Vancouver’s historic Gastown. There’s always a few “early adopters” who choose to work and live in re-emerging districts. These people appreciate character and differentiation. They want something special and affordable. They also know that in an emerging area there is a strong potential for their investment in home or business will grow. New Westminster is on track for a similar experience to Gastown.
After years of neglect and dormancy, a huge commitment by the City is attracting new investment to the downtown. In turn, hip new retailers and residents have woken up to the amazing potential of downtown New Westminster. The new River Market is a great example of this energy and change. It’s thrilling to see exciting businesses like Wild Rice, Re-Up BBQ (which recently took home the VanMag Award for Best Food Cart), and The Network Hub establish a lively presence in New West.
Cities evolve, and Downtown New Westminster is on a strong upswing and headed for a period of strong growth. For current residents, new businesses will bring goods and services, and generate employment opportunities.
It is my firm belief that new home developments do more than just provide condos. Investments from these developments bring new people, who in turn bring pride of ownership to the community. Commercial demand follows. New homes need and attract necessities such as shops and amenities. A positive snowball effect occurs when critical mass of activity encourages further economic growth.
People ask me what should change about New Westminster. New West is already a vibrant city, and it is not our intention to change it. Rather, we hope to assist in changing some peoples’ perceptions about New West. We think that the Trapp + Holbrook redevelopment will go a long way towards demonstrating why both the history and the future of downtown New West are among the most exciting in Metro Vancouver.
I truly believe that in 10 years, downtown New West will be one of the most popular destinations in Metro Vancouver for living and shopping. It’s an exciting time for this historic city by the river, and I thank many of you for warmly welcoming the Salient Group to the community.