Sunday, July 24, 2011

On Stable Ground

A little while ago, a friend from Ontario landed in Vancouver for a spell, and one bright afternoon he came to visit in New Westminster. I took him through downtown and showed off the view from the Downtown Parkade across the Fraser, toward the SkyBridge and Surrey and the mountains. You know what he thought? That it was a bit "dilapidated." I'll be honest, this got me a bit, this strike against my new city's honor... but realistically, when you're looking at it from Front Street or the Parkade, it's kind of accurate. Downtown may shimmer along Columbia Street, but closer to the water things seem to get a bit ragged. I suppose it's partially because of the Parkade itself; there just isn't that much foot traffic down there when it's not being redressed as Brooklyn for a film shoot, and the parkade hides a lot of those buildings from view.

Last night, I stood on the deck of the parkade with quite a few other people to watch the Hyack FraserFest fireworks - and whenever someone moved nearby, I could feel the structure vibrate slightly. Now, I know the parkade's a fairly old structure, built back in the 1950s, and I have to wonder - how much attention did its designers pay to seismic stability? For that matter, how stable are any of the buildings on the south side of Columbia Street?

Sure, for some of them it may not be much of an issue; downtown New Westminster is built on rock rather than post-Ice Age silt, after all. But other buildings seem designed in such a way that they're practically daring an earthquake to do their worst. Case in point: the building at the intersection of Columbia and Fourth, at the easternmost entrance/exit from the parkade.

I'm not sure what street address this has... but just look at it.

Honestly, I would call this building dilapidated. But beyond that, it's built on supports - there's a rather significant difference in elevation between Columbia Street and Front Street, and while some of the buildings were built to take that into account, some are just on stilts. The Parkade, itself, could be described in such a way as well, I think. The Inn on the Quay, further down the waterfront, also goes for a similar support structure - though it, at least, doesn't look like it's one bad jolt from falling apart.

I know New Westminster is doing a lot to improve the waterfront; once the Pier Park opens later this year, the area will be transformed. Still, it's only a stage - and I wouldn't much like to see downtown further transformed by these older buildings crumbling if the ground should shake.

No comments:

Post a Comment