This week, a look at a municipal town centre that’s trying to create a regional transit-oriented development – before transit has arrived.

If you haven’t been to Coquitlam for a few decades, this might be your memory – a commercial strip with a bad case of Motordom.  And much of Barnett/Lougheed Highway still looks this way (map here):


Coq - Motordom 2

Coq - Motordom .

But “Coquitlam City Centre” is a designated regional town centre in the Metro Vancouver strategic plan (details here) – and the municipal council, planners and developers have been making a determined effort to create an urban place for the last several decades, expecting, hoping, crying for theCapture Evergreen rapid-transit line to arrive.  So it makes a great case-study in how high-density works, particularly in highrise form, when the context all around is still car-dependent.

As we’ll see, much of the urban-design has been influenced by ‘Vancouverism’ – the name somewhat vaguely applied to the tower-and-podium style that evolved out of the megaproject developments that so spectacularly changed the City of Vancouver in the 1990s.

Although Coquitlam wasn’t the only suburban municipality to adopt a Vancouver-styled urbanism (check out No. 3 Road in Richmond, Lonsdale in North Vancouver, Surrey City Centre), it’s probably the one that looks most like parts of Concord Pacific or Downtown South.

Coq 2


The residential highrises, in fact, are often taller and more imposing that what might be found downtown, and the ambience of the neighbourhood is distinctly influenced by the presence of a large Korean community.

Coq 3 Coq - 2

Coq - smoker


Next: what works, what doesn’t.


  1. Another totally sterile and boring neighbourhood that ticks all the boxes of “Good” Urban design, like Surrey City Centre the street sizes, block spacings and buildings dwarf the pedestrian. Better to look at Marine drive in the district of North Van from Keith Road to Pemberton, great scale of mix use (3-5 story) with nice ornmentation using wood and stone, etc. The districts goal is to turn the corridor into the West 4th of the North Shore.

    One of the many new infill developments going up:

    1. The south side of Marine Drive in the city is still zoned for strip malls. Several years ago council attempted to save nearby industrial land – long occupied by fitness centres and offices – by refusing residential uses on the south side of the street. New strip malls went up where condos were proposed but not permitted. The city – ready to sell off its works yard

      1. Hi there, I am confused, The Drive development I posted the link for is at the SE corner of Marine Drive and Pemberton south of Marine Drive. Also have you seen the reconfiguration of Capilano Square? Still alot of parking but atleast its internal with the new shops addressing the street.

  2. Thanks for the link Jill.
    I would go with Option A. i.e. Robson Street is downtown Vancouver’s main shopping street, not Georgia St. Likewise, in Brentwood, Burnaby is focussing on Dawson St. not Lougheed Highway. I think different streets can have different functions. The parking lots around the mall will be eventually built on – and a good sign is the agreement with the mall owner, Morguard (?), to build Lincoln Station.

  3. Looking forward to the remaining posts.

    I think the area is building up untapped potential that will eventually be realized once a few more pieces come into place.

    Key pieces that I see still being needed are the Evergreen Line, reduction in the endless surface parking in that area (look to Northgate Village in Burnaby as a way to make new development work better in this sort of urban environment) and the creation of better pedestrian/bike pathways around/through the area.

    On a more specific note, it would be helpful if the city and Morguard (owner of Coquitlam Centre) could work together to extend the high street South to meet up with Lincoln and link up with the new station.

  4. I think that the proper “methodology” for development is being followed. The SkyTrain will follow the street and the shopping centre will eventually build out towards the station. i.e. Like Yorkdale in Toronto and as is being done for Brentwood, as opposed to diverting the line to the existing mall structure.

  5. Seriously Scott? A 3 to 5 story dwarfs a pedestrian too. It is not the height of the building that matters, it is the street level details and the amount of pedestrian traffic that matters. Taller buildings with more people generate more pedestrian traffic. If you want to see an example of where 3 or 4 story buildings fail to generate a vibratant street environment, just go to 4th Ave west of MacDonald. It is lined with 4 story buildings and the street is pretty much empty.

    Coquitlam Centre does have a ways to go but it is on the right track.

    1. Agree the street level details and ped traffic matter, thats pretty basic. Not sure about the west 4th example I will take your word for it, looks like a few gaps in intensity there and perhaps a lack of retail mix. Disagree Taller buildings with more people generate more pedestrian traffic, maybe downtown but don’t buy it out here. People will be driving into the underground car garage of these towers and up to the appartment. Towers are here for the views and somewhat affordable entry into Coquitlam. No doubt people will hop on the skytrain to commute into downtown and its a better outome for landuse due to the density but that doesn’t mean it has character and scale and feels like a series of spaces people want to linger in. The mixed use area around The Rise (Home Depot) and whole foods on Cambie is a better scale and is crawling with pedestrians, I know there is more people in the immediate area but its proportions seem to work even with the traffic and noise of Cambie and could be applied here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *