If you live in New Westminster, you may be interested to know that our city made it on the Money Sense magazine ranking as one of “Canada’s Best Places to Live”. In fact, nine cities in British Columbia actually made it in the top 25!
But before you call out the band and get ready to cheer on the rooftops…how would you feel if I told you Steinbach, Manitoba and a place called Lincoln, Ontario scored higher in the overall ratings than New Westminster?
Sadly, we didn’t even rank in the top 100. In fact, the Royal City came in 136th compared to all the other cities who were in the survey. Money Sense uses a number of criteria to rank cities including everything from how robust the local economy is to the overall level of taxation. Just imagine how low our ranking would have been had they measured us for the relative “newness” of our sports and recreation facilities.
No doubt the folks at city hall will argue the survey is flawed and is in no way representative of our true ranking. After all, Money Sense is an eastern-based publication and what do they know about New Westminster?
While the survey is not perfect, it’s yet another reminder that we could and should be doing so much more in this city. A walk downtown on the eastern part of Columbia Street helps to illustrate what I mean. A number of stores are boarded up, void of any street presence and lack what it takes to attract people to take a stroll and shop.
There are also way too few restaurants and coffee shops downtown and a disproportionately high number of bridal and hair salons. Don’t get me wrong, we need bridal salons…just not the sheer number that populate almost every block of the once “Golden Mile”.
On the western portion of Columbia St., El Santo Restaurant and a few other merchants are considered a beacon of hope regarding what the downtown could become. Yet I’m sure many of those business owners are as disappointed as I am the City invested millions of tax dollars in the Anvil Centre…only to discover that years later the office tower remains virtually empty and void of the much-needed “lunch crowd” that should be lining the streets each day at noon.
“No doubt the folks at city hall will argue the survey is flawed and is in no way representative of our true ranking”
New Westminster lacks any kind of clear economic development strategy. By any measure, we are not attracting the necessary investment we need to bring jobs back to this city.
As they say “hope” isn’t a strategy…and our city politicians hoping that building new condo towers will revitalize the downtown, is a failed strategy.
According to the Real Estate News Exchange “office vacancy in New West reached its highest level in more than a decade at the end of 2016 at 17.4 per cent. Altogether, the Metro Vancouver office vacancy rate is 9.7 per cent, according to Avison Young’s year-end regional office report.”
“The empty Anvil Centre Office Tower goes a long way in driving up the overall vacancy rate” says Josh Sookero, a principal with Avison Young in Vancouver.
I speak to numerous people each week who are extremely proud of our city. They wouldn’t think of living anywhere else…but they know we could and should be doing better.
They agree with me that City Hall should become the catalyst for growth and innovation, not the barrier that prevents and stifles it at every turn.
The Money Sense ranking may well be a publicity stunt to get the national publication some free press, but it’s also a wake-up call that if we ever aspire to make it into the top 100 one day…it will take a wholesale change of leadership before that happens.
On that topic…I’ll share some of my ideas in the coming months regarding regarding what we could be doing to spur economic development in our city. But for now, I welcome you to post a comment and let me know what you think!
Just a quick note to say my petition to construct a new arena in New Westminster near the target of 500 signatures. As of this evening, I have now secured 481 people who have marked their name in support. Be sure to let your family and friends know about the petition if you want to help “make it happen”!