UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Heritage preservation : the case of downtown New Westminster Sleath, Eleanor Catherine


Planning, by its nature, involves the management of change, but often that change occurs so rapidly or in such a way that people begin to fear that their community is losing its sense of place, that everything familiar or characteristic is diappearing. Preservation of a community's heritage offers a way to maintain continuity of the past into the future. This thesis focuses on planning for preservation at the local level using the case of Downtown New Westminster. The City of New Westminster is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment of its downtown area which will place tremendous pressure on the existing character of the City. New Westminster has a history of 125 years which traces back to its beginnings as the first incorporated city north of San Francisco and west of the Great Lakes. The Downtown's urban pattern was deliberately planned by Colonel Moody and has remained almost intact. The Downtown still contains many turn of the century buildings and its historic sense of place is highly valued by its citizens; however, the core has experienced a decline in its regional importance as a commercial centre and its built space is deteriorating. The redevelopment proposed for the area is a result of its designation as a Regional Town Centre to be serviced by the ALRT line. Because of the plans for redevelopment, it is important that New Westminster act quickly to ensure that its historic sense of place is preserved and helps in the revitalization of the area. The Downtown is identifiable as a district within the larger city due to its concentration of commercial uses, unique geography, and historic buildings, but within this district are nodes or concentrations of particular uses which possess a distinctive physical and historic character. These nodes provide the basis for heritage areas or precincts within the district. The heritage precincts establish a framework for effective planning due to their consistency and limited size. The case study of planning for preservation in Downtown New Westminster is approached by first identifying the area's historic significance and the unique elements which make up its sense of place. A Plan for Preservation is then presented. Heritage precincts are identified to act as planning units. A variety of strategies are proposed to carry out preservation activity as it relates to the goals and objectives of the Downtown's Plan for Preservation. Finally, the basic principles and strategies revealed by the case study are discussed in relation to their application in comparable situations. The Plan for Preservation has three basic objectives: 1) planning for preservation manages change so that the Downtown's essential character and function remain intact; 2) the total setting or environment is more significant than individual buildings; and 3) buildings must remain functional and economic to be a positive component in the Downtown. The case study reveals that history and sense of place are important reasons to preserve a community's heritage, but also that planning for preservation offers a way to manage change that is economically more efficient and socially less disruptive.

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