Can urban development be fair and sustainable?
By Tania Arora, Staff Reporter
Douglas College—in association with SFU’s Urban Studies Program and the City of New Westminster—held its latest Urban Challenges Forum on January 17. The theme for the event was “Just Growth.”
Given its location in the middle of Metro Vancouver, the City of New Westminster holds the power to attract millions of new residents. In recent years, the city has witnessed major changes in terms of its population and urban growth. This has been beneficial for the city but at the same time has brought major challenges. The question that now arises is how to accommodate such a rapidly growing population in a sustainable way.
Organized at Douglas College’s New Westminster Campus from 6:30 to 8 pm, the event allowed students and citizens of New Westminster to learn about the current municipal office’s plans for the city. Speakers at the event included Michael McPhee, a Geography instructor at Douglas College who was the moderator for the evening; Meg Holden, Director and Professor of the Urban Students Program at SFU; and Patrick Johnstone, who is a New Westminster City Councillor.
Samdisha Anand, an international student at Douglas College who attended the forum, said in an interview with the Other Press that many students at Douglas College do not live in New Westminster currently.
“Every semester I see a lot of students coming here. Everyone prefers convenience and to live in a good locality with all basic amenities,” she said. “It has now become difficult to find houses here compared to the situation before. The prices have skyrocketed. Many live here and many commute from other cities every day.”
Anand said she sees “great potential” for the city to become a top choice for people to live in.
The City of New Westminster’s website lists its great improvements in recent years including the Citywide Integrated Stormwater Management Plan, Downtown Parking Strategy, Fourth Street Pedestrian Overpass, and more.
Considering the rise in population, New Westminster might require a new downtown transportation plan. Another idea discussed at the forum was to focus on developments in the high-rise area near Carnarvon Street.
Johnstone said at the forum, “Growth is happening, and it is happening at a serious pace. The First Regional Planning Board came up in 1949 and then there was Regional Growth Strategy Board in 2011.”
Speaking about the importance of sustainability, he said, “There is a reason we project 50 years into the future. Each step we take is going to affect generations to come.”
The forum ended with the general public and students posing questions to the guest speakers. Many came up with concerns, while others voiced questions about what lies ahead for the city and its residents.