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Last week I came across an article on Planetizen that examined the importance of the photo op in making streetscapes appealing to pedestrians. One conclusion was that city planners should be asking a new question in their work: can it be Instagrammed? The article inspired me to look up my own city on Instagram, something I found to be a really interesting exercise. Looking up the hashtag #newwest, I began scanning a wide array of photos taken of New Westminster over the last month. The photos posted on Instagram were very insightful in looking at what people liked about New Westminster, what was trendy and what people aspire our city to become. If you think about it, no one goes to themselves, “this place is pretty lame, I need to share this with the world”, so Instagram really does provide a good barometer for what people love about their cities. It’s an exercise I would recommend all civic leaders and planner do if they want to better understand what is working and what is adored in their city.

I have two takeaways about what Instagram is saying about #newwest

  1. We love our riverfront. The vast majority of photos posted on Instagram has some connection to our waterfront in New Westminster.
  2. Bigger is not always better. People seem to love the small quirky unique art/community projects on our streetscapes.

Below is the Top 20 Instagram List for #newwest for the Summer of 2015

  1. Pattullo & Skybridge: The most frequent images on Instagram are those that include the two bridges crossing the Fraser River. These bridges are iconic and have become the symbols of our city.   Instagram Score: 78    30
  2. Westminster Pier Park: This park is only 3 years old, but it is quickly becoming one of the most photogenic parks in the region.   Instagram Score: 7619
  3. Rainbow Crosswalk: We recently celebrated our Pride Festival in New Westminster and this crosswalk became the focal point of where the community celebrated our diversity.   Instagram Score: 62       33
  4. Quayside Boardwalk: This boardwalk is the original recreational space along our riverfront. Build over 30 years ago, it still an extremely popular and clearly one of the most photogenic locations in our city. Score: 3437
  5. River Market Pedestrian walkway: By itself this walkway is nothing too exciting, but the River Market often decorates the walkway. This summer pride inspired lanterns were installed on the walkway, which made it very Instagramable.  Instagram Score: 32                                                            Capture2
  6. Before I die: This is an interesting public participatory art piece on the waterfront that asks people to write down what they would like to do before they die. This public art piece has become so popular, I am hearing the budget for chalk is becoming an issue.  Instagram Score: 31                                                       32
  7. Love Locks: The locks started appearing on New Westmisnters waterfront around Valentines days. City staff initially wanted to look at removing them, but being the sappy romantic that I am, the city is now taking a wait see approach. Clearly the love locks are connecting with people. I particularly loved the Instagram photo of a wedding proposal done at the location.  Instagram Score: 26                                                      13
  8. Pier Park Hammocks: A few weeks ago I took a staycation in New West. I started my time off with a post on social media of my feet up on the hammocks with the river as the backdrop. It turns out I was not alone in this photo op, as it has been replicated many times over on Instagram over the summer. Instagram Score: 1617
  9. Anvil Centre: Opened last year, the Anvil Center is one of the most unique buildings in New Westminster. Giving the Anvil Centre a boost on the Instagram scale though was its pride inspired lighting, which people loved to take a photo of.  Instagram Score: 15                                                                                   14
  10. Tin Soldier: The world’s largest tin soldier located next to the River Market gets a lot of love on Instagram. Instagram Score: 1322
  11. Sapperton Parklet: New Westminster first parklet located on East Columbia was completed in the beginning of August and has become very popular in the neighbourhood. Instagram Score: 10                35
  12. Queensborough waterfront trails: I think the Queensborough waterfront trails are one of the best kept secrets in #newwest. Clearly some people are discovering these lovely walking trails along the river. Instagram Score: 928
  13. Columbia Street Community Mural: This was a fun local art project, which invited community members to participate in bringing life to a once blank wall in Downtown New Westminster. Instagram Score: 836
  14. Farmers Market: On Thursday evenings during the summer months, Tipperary Park is definately the place to be.  Instagram Score: 7                                                                                                                        18
  15. New Media Art Gallery: Located inside the Anvil Centre, this unique gallery often provides exhibits which are very Instagramable. Instagram Score: 6                                                                                         23
  16. Diversity Chalk Wall: During the Pride Festival in New West organizers put out some chalk near a blank fenced wall. Festival attendees took it from there. The outcome was beautiful. Instagram Score: 615
  17. Mosaic Tiles: Over the years the city has been installing mosaic tiles on our commercial main streets. These tiles are beautiful art pieces and help tell the history of our city.  Instagram Score: 5         25
  18. Queens Park Garden Display. The horticulture department in New Westminster does an incredible job in making our city look great. This year, they developed a creative planting display in Queens Park, which people are loving. Instagram Score: 5 24
  19. Irving House: One of the oldest houses in New Westminster (and currently a city museum). The historic charm of this house makes it very Instagramable. Instagram Score: 4                                                  34
  20. Trapp Block: The Trapp Block is a really interesting new development project in New Westminster that speaks to how the city is embracing both its history and its new vitality. This new development includes the heritage façade restoration of the historic Trapp and Holbrook buildings as part of a new condo development. Score: 438

 

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