As a city councillor and now Mayor, I’ve seen New Westminster transform into a vibrant hotspot of activity and development that has awakened the interest people around the world. The multi-award winning rehabilitation of the brownfield site that is now Westminster Pier Park, the ever expanding Downtown Food Truck Festival, and countless new developments and infrastructure improvements have created a buzz around New Westminster that just keeps growing.
In the midst of this progress and change, city council recognized the need to reconnect New Westminster with the river that gave us our start. After all, it was the river that called people to our city to put down roots, start and grow businesses, and raise families. Over time, as our city grew, it became separated from the riverfront and access was diminished. Our new Riverfront Vision aims to remedy that and reconnect New Westminster neighbourhoods to the river through a seamless system of parks and greenways that will provide public spaces and activities for visitors and residents to enjoy year-round.
A key component of the Riverfront Vision took shape when Council made the decision to remove half of the downtown parkade and replace it with the Front Street Mews. The idea was to re-imagine one of the oldest areas of New Westminster while at the same time providing connectivity between our downtown to the river. The Mews was designed as an inviting space where people could meet friends, support local businesses and enjoy a historic part of New Westminster that had long been hidden under the shadow of the parkade.
Every journey is not without its setbacks, and yes, we had some throughout this project. A long, uncharacteristic west coast winter that regularly delayed construction and the challenges of revitalizing one of the oldest parts of the city in a major multi-phase project created difficulties that threatened to cloud our end goal. To the businesses and residents in the area – I know you experienced many frustrations throughout the process. Thank you for your patience and for working with us even when it was hard to see the vision at the end of the road. It is my sincere hope that the beautiful new space that is the Front Street Mews along with the increased activity it brings will more than make up for the frustrations faced during construction.
The official opening of the Front Street Mews at the Fridays on Front kickoff event last week is a perfect example of the kind of activity a project like this can bring to our city. Fridays on Front, hosted by the New Westminster Downtown Business Improvement Association, demonstrates how public spaces can breathe new life into neighbourhoods by connecting people of all ages and interests and spurring business growth. The Front Street Mews represents another step forward in New Westminster’s reconciliation with its waterfront and is a true testament to how historic areas can be revitalized and become a key part of our city’s progress. I invite everyone to come out to Fridays on Front, taking place every Friday over the summer, and celebrate New Westminster’s newest public space.