Who’s Buying Here?

 

Justin Turcotte is the new face of New Westminster.

The 29-year-old filmmaker and his wife, Jaycey, moved to the city last year from East Vancouver. They bought a home in Sapperton because they could afford it, something they could no longer do west of Tenth Avenue.

But moving to New West hasn’t cost them the urban vibe they loved in East Van, says Turcotte. “It really doesn’t feel like a suburb.”

Realtor James Garbutt says he’s seeing more and more buyers looking at New Westminster as a real alternative to Vancouver but without giving up the amenities of city life.

In fact, 22 percent of visitors to open houses he’s conducted in New West are from Vancouver, says Garbutt, whose team has been tracking the numbers for months.

For detached single-family homes sold up to October, 2016, 51 percent of the buyers’ agents were from Vancouver, suggesting their clients likely are as well, says Garbutt. For condos, 36 percent of the buyers’ agents were from Vancouver.

Overall, 39 percent of buyers’ agents were from Vancouver. The next biggest source was New Westminster-based agents—13 percent—often representing residents who’ve chosen to stay in the city. Burnaby and Coquitlam were the next biggest sources for home buyers, with about 11 percent each.

“In New West, our main sources of buyers are coming from more expensive markets, primarily Vancouver,” says Garbutt. “However we are seeing a trend that New West is a sought-after community for residents in the Fraser Valley who are looking to relocate closer to Vancouver. They accounted for about nine percent of the buyers’ agents.”

New Westminster is no longer a secret, says Garbutt. “It’s centrally located, there’s a great sense of community, and, quite frankly, it’s the most affordable community to buy into that’s within 30 minutes of Downtown Vancouver.”

Many of the buyers he’s met are young, urban professionals, some with young families, says Garbutt.

Like Anna Horvath. Even though she grew up in New Westminster, it’s only when she started shopping for her first home she realized her appreciation for what the city offers.

“I thought New West was for retirees and well-to-do families,” says Horvath of her perception of the city when she was younger.

But as she looked for a home of her own, she started to see New West through a different prism.

“More and more younger professionals as well as younger families are attracted to the area,” says Horvath.

After considering areas like Gastown, Chinatown, and Mount Pleasant in Vancouver, Horvath realized there’s no place like home. She bought a condo in the Trapp + Holbrook building on Columbia Street.

“The area needed to have a sense of community,” says Horvath of her requirements for her new home. “I wanted it to be on a transit line and no bridges between my place and the downtown core. I did not want to spend most of my disposable income on a mortgage.”

The city’s changing demographic comes with difficulties, says its mayor, Jonathan Coté.

“It certainly does present a challenge to be able to anticipate that services are in line with the growing population and demand,” says Coté.

To meet that challenge, the City embarked on a three-year process to update its Official Community Plan, a kind of roadmap for growth that was last visited in the 1990s. New Westminster’s population—currently at around 67,000—is expected to exceed 104,000 by 2041.

Developers are jumping aboard.

Bosa Developments recently submitted its proposal for two tall towers between the River Market and Pier Park, joining its RiverSky project currently under construction next to the Inn at the Quay. Aragon and Wesgroup are also adding major projects to the city’s skyline. Onni is in the final phases of its massive Victoria Hill development.

But to manage the city’s growth, it needs a variety of housing options, and infrastructure like schools, transportation, recreation, culture, and jobs, says Coté.

“The Official Community Plan is definitely a document that guides us how the city will transform,” says Coté. “The timing is perfect for a city in our stage of growth that is starting to become attractive.”

One key component is the city’s new Family-Friendly Housing Policy.

It was sparked by a 2015 City of New Westminster supply analysis that ranked New West 21st out of 22 Metro Vancouver communities for ground-oriented housing and 20th for housing options with three bedrooms that are more family-friendly.

But the need for family housing is growing. Census data from 2011 shows an 11 percent increase in the number of families living in New Westminster compared to 2006. Of neighbouring communities, only Surrey and Coquitlam saw a larger jump, and BC’s overall increase was just 6 percent.

Matt Lorenzi knows the frustration of finding a family home in New Westminster only too well. He spent about a year searching for a new, larger home that could accommodate his growing family, his budget, and his desire to stay centrally-located in the Lower Mainland as well as close to transit.

“We wanted more space, something as modest as a third bedroom or spacious den,” says Lorenzi, whose family of four could no longer fit into their one bedroom plus den apartment. “We knew the supply of three-bedroom condos was limited. But we didn’t really realize just how limited it was until we started our search.”

After a series of consultations with residents and builders, the City enacted a new bylaw that mandates new multi-family projects must dedicate at least 30 percent of units to two and three bedrooms with at least 10 percent of the total comprised of three-bedroom units.

New multi-family rental buildings must also include a minimum 25 percent two- and three-bedroom units, with at least five per cent of the total comprised of three-bedrooms or more.

The bylaw, the first of its kind in British Columbia, came into effect on January 1, 2016.

So far developers have been receptive, says John Stark, New Westminster’s acting manager of planning. “There is a realization in the development community that three-bedroom units appeal to a wider market segment, like extended families and young professionals looking at shared living arrangements.”

In fact, says Stark, some projects that have been submitted by builders in the past year are even exceeding the mandated requirements for two and three-bedroom units. One of those is a new condo development planned for 100 Braid St.; 26.1 percent of its units will be two-bedrooms and 13.5 percent will have three bedrooms.

Stark credits an ongoing dialogue with developers as well as some key compromises, like not requiring the third bedroom to require direct light from a window, for the smooth transition. He says the city is committed to gauging the ongoing success of the bylaw and adjusting it if necessary.

“We’re still in the early days,” says Stark.

“The Official Community Plan allows the city to be in a better position to plan and ensure that growth will benefit the city and the people who are moving here,” says Coté.

That gives Lorenzi hope his family will be able to stay in New West, even as their living requirements change. After a year of searching, and flirting briefly with the idea of moving to Port Moody or elsewhere, they were able to find a suitable condo in Victoria Hill.

“Over the eight or nine years prior to moving (to Victoria Hill) we grew to love New West,” says Lorenzi. “The city should encourage a mix of housing, especially larger units for growing families.”

Justin Turcotte says he’s confident moving to New West was the right choice.

“It took a bit of warming up to the idea of living so far from Vancouver,” says Turcotte. “We’re discovering new things about the city and have been pretty impressed by what we’ve seen so far. I definitely still think that it’s only going to improve and offer more.”

Anna Horvath says she’s also feeling good about her decision to stay in New West, close to family and the friends she grew up with.

“It ticks most of the boxes.”

New Westminster is changing, and this is a critical time in its transformation. Planning that recognizes growth, embraces the city’s diverse demographic, and a drive to adapt will ensure it continues to thrive and be a great place to live. Who will be the face of New Westminster in 2041?

 

Farmers Market Challenge: Winter Edition

Snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures help put the winter into the Royal City Winter Farmer's Market on Saturday.
Snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures help put the winter into the Royal City Winter Farmer’s Market on Saturday.

Snow and ice put the winter back into Saturday’s final Winter Farmer’s Market of 2016. But Jason, at Gary’s Kettle Corn, wasn’t feeling the frosty temperatures.

In fact, he was so comfortable he was wearing just a t-shirt as he hovered over the propane burners heating the 80-quart kettle where the kernels are popped full of sweet and salty flavour.

“I definitely have the warmest spot on the block,” he chuckled as his shivering assistant served a customer just outside their booth’s heat zone.

A t-shirt is all Jason needs to stay warm as he works the giant kettle at Garry's Kettle Corn.
A t-shirt is all Jason needs to stay warm as he works the giant kettle at Garry’s Kettle Corn.

Since moving uptown and outside last year, the Royal City Winter Farmer’s Market has been anything but wintery. Oh sure, there’s been plenty of rainy and cold market days, but Saturday’s setting of snow and ice was a first for many of the vendors. And they were doing everything they could think of to stay warm.

Like Tara at Roasters Hot Sauce; she was thinking about enjoying a hot toddy in her warm apartment to take the icy edge off that her six layers of shirts and sweaters couldn’t.

The hot sauces at Roasters may warm the insides, but Tara is relying on six layers and Hot Pockets to keep her outsides toasty at Saturday's chilly Winter Farmer's Market.
The hot sauces at Roasters may warm the insides, but Tara is relying on six layers and Hot Pockets to keep her outsides toasty at Saturday’s chilly Winter Farmer’s Market.

Layering is the key, said Michelle and Kathryn at Kiki’s Kitchen. They each topped a half-dozen layers of undershirts and cashmere with matching orange puffy jackets. Experience helps too, said Kathryn. She’s originally from Montreal so she spent plenty of time having a good time in the snow and cold.

Matching puffy orange jackets and a propane space heater keep Michelle and Kathryn toasty in the Kiki Kitchen kiosk.
Matching puffy orange jackets and a propane space heater keep Michelle and Kathryn toasty in the Kiki Kitchen kiosk.

“You’ve got to dance around, keep moving,” she said as the pair bopped around a propane space heater at the back of their booth.

Over at A Bread Affair, Cierra’s dancing was more like rocking back and forth from foot to foot. But her kiosk is closest to the Tim Horton’s so she was able to steal away for a hot coffee and a few moments of thawing out whenever traffic slowed.

“This is better than rain,” she said, optimistically.

Cierra, of A Bread Affair, is bundled up to her eyeballs.
Cierra, of A Bread Affair, is bundled up to her eyeballs.

Many of the vendors had the cold well in hand. They had chemical warming packets stuffed into gloves and socks.

Chemical warming packets are the key to staying warm at Saturday's Winter Farmers Market say many of the vendors.
Chemical warming packets are the key to staying warm at Saturday’s Winter Farmers Market say many of the vendors.

“I love that we’re all in this together,” said Amanda at Honey Bee Zen.

Amanda tries to stay warm at ther Honey Bee Zen kiosk.
Amanda tries to stay warm at ther Honey Bee Zen kiosk.

But for Aaron at Ossome Acres, the frigid temperatures presented a new and unexpected challenge.

“We have to keep our eggs in the coolers to keep them from freezing,” he said.

Aaron pours a steaming mug of tea to stay warm in the Ossome Acres booth.
Aaron pours a steaming mug of tea to stay warm in the Ossome Acres booth.

This week’s $40 haul was all about indulgence. After all, ’tis the season:

• 2 pieces of strudel, 2 Schrippen buns and 3 poppyseed buns from Gesundheit Bakery – $10

• box of mixed cookies, that will be used as a Christmas gift, from Sweet Thea Bakery – $10 (These market fixtures have hit a bit of a financial speed bump, so they’ve started a gofundme page to help them weather the storm and ensure they can keep baking)

• tuna loin from our favourite fish guy, Ron, at Wild West Coast Seafood – $20

The next Royal City Winter Farmer’s Market will be January 7. So enjoy the holiday, and the treats from this week’s chilly market!

A rack of hand-knit sweaters is an enticement to shoppers trying to stay warm at Saturday's chilly Royal City Winter Farmer's Market.
A rack of hand-knit sweaters is an enticement to shoppers trying to stay warm at Saturday’s chilly Royal City Winter Farmer’s Market.

Farmers Market Challenge: Winter Edition

It's funny how Winter Market Season always seems to coincide with Rainy Season.
It’s funny how Winter Market Season always seems to coincide with Rainy Season.

We’re back!

Just like your favourite TV show, the Farmer’s Market Challenge has been renewed for another season.

Except this is the winter market, which should make for some bold new adventures in comfort cooking in the months ahead.

While the summer market at Tipperary Park is all about tender salad greens, crisp red peppers, sweet, juicy berries and hanging out with your neighbours under the shade trees, the winter market is root vegetables and ducking out of the rain.

Oh yes, the rain.

If there’s moisture falling from the leaden sky, it must be time for winter marketing. Nothing a little Gore-Tex can’t handle.

The renewal of the Market Challenge was a bit unexpected. In fact, it was just happenstance that brought us to the market in the first place. So we were a bit unprepared; no meal plan, no list, no recipes that required specific ingredients, no shopping strategy.

Instead we relied on instinct.

A quick scouting mission up and down Belmont Street revealed the return of some summertime favourites like Ossome Acres and Wild West Coast Seafoods. And there’s some new vendors, like Sweet Earth Farms.

Salad greens, our weekly staple during the summer Market Challenge, were sparse. But Ripple Creek came through with a hefty bag of super mixed greens and a handsome bunch of leafy, purple-veined Russian kale. Add a bag of organic arugula and a head of organic butter lettuce from Sweet Earth Farms, as well as some tender pea shoots from Ossome, and we were confident the flavour would return to our nightly dinner salads.

Stocking our salad spinner was the easy part.

But this is supposed to be a Market Challenge, which means breaking from comfortable routines, learning new things, taking our marketing in surprising new directions.

Fresh pine mushrooms foraged from a hemlock forest in the eastern Fraser Valley by Matt McAllister of Your Wildest Foods.
Fresh pine mushrooms foraged from a hemlock forest in the eastern Fraser Valley by Matt McAllister of Your Wildest Foods.

Enter Your Wildest Foods. Or as we came to call him every time we passed by his stall during the summer market, “Mushroom Guy.” Then, we had every intention to sample his wares. But frankly, we had no idea how to use his array of exotic dried mushrooms. And, they were expensive.

But this time, in the spirit of renewed adventure, we stopped. Next to the usual pouches of dried funghi, Matt McAllister (aka “Mushroom Guy”) had heaped baskets full of fresh, bulbous chanterelles, porcini and pine ’shrooms, all of which he’d foraged himself in the forests of the eastern Fraser Valley.

The season was slow to start, said McAllister, but was now proving bountiful.

Picking wild mushrooms is slow, careful laborious work; hence their hefty price.

But the payoff is pungent, earthy funghi that can be used in so many ways.

McAllister recommended the pine mushrooms, perfect for light grilling to bring out their full smokey flavour, basted lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with some dried rosemary.

Our’s ended up in three dishes: a topping on grilled pizza; a garnish on a garden salad; and mixed into spaghettini with olive oil and parmesan. All were boosted to new, flavourful heights.

This week’s haul:

Ripple Creek Farm: Kale $3; salad greens super mix $7

Ossome Acres: pea shoots $4; rainbow chard $3

Your Wildest Foods: three pine mushrooms $13

Sweet Earth Organics: arugula $4; butter lettuce $3.50

Samaya Delights: tumeric anise muffin $2 (a treat for our very patient son; he loved it)

Queens Cross

What happens when you cross a bike race with a mud bog?

Queens Cross, that’s what.

Saturday’s driving rainstorm may have deterred all but the hardiest spectators, but dozens of riders from beginners to elite men and women relished the chance to battle each other and the elements at New Westminster’s Queen’s Park in the fifth race of the eight-race Vancouver Cyclocross Coalition’s series.

Cyclocross is an off-road version of a road cycling criterium race in which riders lap a number of circuits on a two or three kilometre course comprised of dirt trails, grassy meadows, over barriers and across creeks or gullies. It evolved in Belgium and Northern France in the early 1900s as a way for road cyclists to stay fit during the fall and winter off-season. Sometimes getting to the warmth and shelter of the nearest café or brasserie meant cutting across farmer’s fields and through forests; cyclocross replicates that experience.

Saturday’s cold torrential downpour was worthy of the worst weather of the Ardennes and turned most of the course at the west end of Queen’s Park into a track of thick, viscous muck. At the end of each event, the line at the hose station was 20-30 muddy cyclists deep. Even through their exhaustion, many managed a smile. After all, there’s often a rainbow at the end of a rainstorm.

Full results of the Queens Cross.

In This Corner…

Brennan Williams believes boxing gyms belong under bridges. So that’s where he put his new Sugarrays Boxing and Fitness Club.

Brennan Williams takes a break in the custom-built ring at his new Sugarray's Boxing Gym on Front Street.
Brennan Williams takes a break in the custom-built ring at his new Sugarray’s Boxing Gym on Front Street.

Well, not quite a bridge. But the east end of Front Street where the remaining bulk of the old concrete parkade blocks out the sun and locks in the noise of passing trucks.

There’s no place Williams, who grew up in Burnaby but has deep family roots in the Royal City going back three generations, would rather be.

Brennan Williams grew up in Burnaby but he has deep family roots in New Westminster, so he had no doubts where he wanted to locate his second Sugarray's Boxing Gym.
Brennan Williams grew up in Burnaby but he has deep family roots in New Westminster, so he had no doubts where he wanted to locate his second Sugarray’s Boxing Gym.

“New West has an old history,” says Williams. Perfect for pugilists.

“It’s a classic sport, it’s got a culture,” says Williams. “Everybody has something in their history that connects them to boxing.”

Even if it’s just a memory of watching a Rocky movie.

Sugarrays has been a part of Vancouver’s boxing scene for more than 16 years, first on Granville Street downtown and currently in Kitsilano.

Williams, who learned the sweet science at the gym under legendary coach Bob McAdam and now passes on his knowledge to  prospective boxers aged 16-60, had no doubt where he wanted to locate Sugarrays second facility. He was tiring of the long commute into Vancouver.

Sugarrays New Westminster gym opened Oct. 1 at 425 Front St. after months of construction, including the installation of a custom-built ring, dozens of heavy and speed bags, a weight station and spin bikes. A projector beams boxing matches on a whitewashed cinderblock wall, a collage of framed black and white photos of famous and unknown boxers looms over the reception counter. The 3,000 square foot gym doesn’t yet have the worn-in sweat and spit ambiance of a classic old-time boxing gym; that mostly exists outside the front door, beneath the hulking parkade.

Williams says the gym is in the business of training fighters, but there’s no requirement to face an opponent in the 15-foot training ring. The boxer’s fitness regime is what attracts most members.

That can be comprised of a 30-45 minute circuit of skipping, dips, rope climbs, pedalling the stationary bike and strengthening the abs, plus an hour of running and

Brennan Williams, of Sugarray's Boxing Gym, says a boxer's training workout can be grueling. That may explain the puke bucket hanging in a corner of the gym's custom-built ring.
Brennan Williams, of Sugarray’s Boxing Gym, says a boxer’s training workout can be grueling. That may explain the puke bucket hanging in a corner of the gym’s custom-built ring.

 10 rounds of pounding the various leather bags.

“It’s a tough workout,” says Williams. “It takes real grit.”

Sugarrays is open seven days a week; 2 – 10 pm on weekdays, 10 am – 3 pm on weekends.

Farmers Market Challenge: The Importance of Lists

Seven weeks into the Farmer’s Market Challenge, we’d fallen into an easy and familiar routine; call up the list of vendors on the market’s website on Wednesday evening and craft a meal and shopping plan for the coming week.

It was time to shake things up a bit.

Katie had a meeting with one of her instructors at Douglas College and late Thursday afternoon was the best available time. But that’s Market Time! she exclaimed.

Not to worry, I replied. I’ll do it. After all, I do the cooking, and the bulk of the grocery shopping. Continue reading “Farmers Market Challenge: The Importance of Lists”