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Redevelopment proposal for Port Moody heritage district needs more heritage, say councillors

The project would also see the relocation of the old P. Burns & Co. butcher shop that currently houses GRIT café
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The view from Clarke and Queens streets of a proposed condo project in Port Moody's heritage downtown.

The redevelopment of an entire city block in Port Moody’s heritage downtown needs to do a better job of acknowledging the city’s history.

That’s the advice from councillors as they got their first look Tuesday at the proposal by North Vancouver developer Placemaker Communities and GBL Architects to build a mixed-use project along Clarke Street, from Kyle Street to the Queens Street Plaza.

The development would be comprised of 177 residential units in two six-storey buildings separated by a pedestrian muse that connects Clarke and Spring streets.

The smaller building at the west end of the site would have 78 market rental units while the rest would be strata condos.

Placemaker’s Hesam Deihimi told council there would also be several live-work units along with about 16,000 sq. ft. of commercial space on the ground floor that could include artist studios.

As well, the developer would preserve the historic P. Burns & Co. butcher shop that is currently home to GRIT café and move it to the corner of Spring and Queens streets where it could help animate the adjacent plaza.

GBL’s Joey Stevens called the preservation of the old butcher shop “a really great opportunity to feature that heritage building.”

But some councillors expressed concern saving the butcher shop doesn’t do enough to reflect the guidelines of the special heritage conservation area where the project resides — even though much of the property is currently vacant land.

“This is one of two or three blocks of our heritage conservation area and we’re looking at taking that away,” said Coun. Diana Dilworth, adding the project’s design needs “a much more significant nod to the heritage concept of that street.”

Coun. Amy Lubik lamented the buildings’ presence along Clarke Street needs to be “really welcoming and inviting,” as the area was when the Gallery Bistro was an epicentre of food, art and culture before it burned down in 2019.

Coun. Hunter Madsen said the proposal lacks charm.

“They look like great big blocks,” he said of two six-storey structures.

Still, Coun. Zoe Royer, who ran an art gallery in the old butcher shop for several years, said residents are hungry to see that part of the city come alive again, especially if the new development could accommodate the arts and incorporate a performance venue.

“I think there is an appetite in the community for revitalization,” she said.

Coun. Meghan Lahti agreed.

She said the proposal is a good start, especially if the developer can find a way to include more affordable housing options.

Deihimi told council he was encouraged by their feedback and he would be eager to hear the community’s thoughts about the mix of units, the opportunities to create employment and live-work spaces as well as the relocation and possible uses for the historic butcher shop.