20th St. to 7/11: Please don’t you be my neighbour

Sometimes I wish New Westminster would block new pizza joints, sports bars and dollar stores from setting up shop in the city. It’s frustrating to see shiny new retail space taken over by these kinds of businesses. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with pizza, beer or Made-In-China junk (ok, maybe that last one), but I think there are already too many of the same. I want New West to have a more varied, and well, ambitious, mix of retailers and restaurants. I want our city to stop being such an economic underachiever and create shopping districts for real shoppers (not just ramen-eating Douglas College students and blue-haired seniors).

[Ed. note – a few commenters have said they were offended at that last comment. I didn’t write it to make fun of seniors and students. I’m well aware that most students eat more than ramen, and that most seniors aren’t afflicted with blue hair! What I tried (and apparently failed) to convey was that too many local businesses, in my opinion, are catering to these stereotypes instead of occupying a distinct niche that appeals to the variety of shoppers I observe here in New West. I don’t just mean that I’d like to see more shops targeting younger and more affluent shoppers (though that would be nice to see too).]

7-11
7/11 logo

While my somewhat elitist prejudice is aesthetic and (admittedly) rather passive, Connaught Heights homeowners are actively trying to block a specific business from setting up shop in the sleepy commercial strip on 20th St. just uphill from the SkyTrain The target of their opposition: 7/11.

“This will be a gathering place for street people, prostitutes and drug dealers,” area resident Peter Saran explained to me via email. “It will bring the wrong kind of people into our quiet family orientated community. Not to mention hurt the other local businesses already there and will make the 20th Street traffic situation even worse – if that is possible. There are already numerous 7/11s in New Westminster, but this one will be in a residential neighbourhood.

“We do not oppose business at all but if the city is trying to enhance the area is this the right choice? Not at all! Put in a Starbucks etc… We are not happy and no one cares about the safety of our children.”

Saran says he has talked to various folks at the city, including planners and councillors, but to no avail. I can see why. I mean, should the city really be telling commercial property owners who they can and cannot lease or sell to? There’s sure a slippery slope to fear there. But at the same time, I can see why neighbours would wish to have veto power over what is built in their neighbourhood – especially if they believe a particular business would make the area less safe.

What do you think?

Update: Peter Saran emailed me some comments he wanted me to share with you. Here’s what he has to say upon reading your comments:

Hi Everyone, this is the person that asked Briana to post my concerns on her blog & I thank everyone for their feedback, most of which I agree with. Yes I am the direct neighbor to this project & yes Briana I have spoken to many of my neighbors who do share the same sentiment, as they have approached me. I do have a personal interest, of course I do! I live right beside the project, as would all of you. I am pro business & would welcome one into this space, just not this particular one. I think 7/11 is a fine business in the day, it’s at late night that raises my concerns. My pub shares back streets & alleys with 7/11 & I have seen first hand the affects this business has on its community. We’ve had to call the city to get them to install flood lights around the 7/11 to clean up the drug dealers, street people etc…as our staff were afraid to leave. The city then had to ramp up police enforcement around it to try & take care of the problem, because they wouldn’t deal with it. That is why I had to speak up, not because of being afraid of change, property value or Ozzy- although I thought that was funny:) – Peter

I work closely with the police dept, fire dept & city hall, ask them what happens at 7/11 late night-the stats don’t lie! I have 2 young children & want to protect them, as well as our community. Those of you who know me or my pub-The Rivers Reach- know we are anything but envious non-achievers, we raise thousands of dollars every year for this community & the people & businesses of New Westminster. Last year alone we supported over 200 local causes incl. The Salvation Army, United Way, Justice Institute, Police Dept, Fire Dept, City Hall, Monarch Place, Cops 4 Cancer, the Purpose Society etc… because we care about our community! And Robert if you think these people whom we’ve supported & our customers are bad people then you’re right we invite questionable characters- I think your wrong though, these people are the backbone of this city & the Reach is the exact opposite of a bad influence. I bring these same community first ideals to the West End & will do what is best for my family & the people who live here. My personal opinion is that 7/11 doesn’t do enough to ensure the best interest of the community. Thank-you all for your time & thank-you Briana!! – Peter

I wasn’t expecting quite so many opinions on the matter, but it’s been interesting to see how y’all have responded!