In July 2016, the SFU Urban Studies Program was pleased to welcome a delegation of students from the University of Groningen.
The 25 Dutch honours students are part of a multidisciplinary course. Their North American field trip focused on issues of human geography in urban settings. Individually, their programs of study in Groningen range from law and psychology to computer programming, engineering and mechatronics. The trip brought them together to investigate urban issues in Vancouver such as homelessness and ease of mobility for aging citizens.
To offer the visitors an in-depth look at one area of our region, Dr. Peter V. Hall, Director of Urban Studies at SFU, organized a tour of the New Westminster waterfront. The morning of July 20th, the Dutch students and their professors met in New West, joined by Hall and several current SFU Urban Studies grad students.
A resident of New Westminster, Hall guided the group to the waterfront, stopping to explain the historical origins of New Westminster, and its challenges in preserving the old while developing the new, in maintaining an attractive atmosphere in what is a long-time industrial area.
On the waterfront, the group was greeted by Mayor Jonathan Coté, who explained the steps taken to revitalize the New Westminster waterfront. Along the working quay, the City of New Westminster has created a hub of leisure and recreation, as well as an homage to the city’s historical roots.
Students examined the large “W” art installation along the waterfront, made from four shipping containers. Mayor Coté described the controversy and symbolism of the piece, which has become a recognizable symbol of New Westminster, visible from the skytrains crossing the Fraser River. The installation, now iconic, is a recognizable landmark.
The tour group strolled down to the residential end of the boardwalk, now landscaped and developed with low-rise housing complexes alongside man-made ponds and flowing water features. From this end of the boardwalk, Hall pointed out various elements of the Fraser River, including a feature that allows the river to “self-dredge” as sediment is pulled along with the current.
The last segment of the tour was a visit to the River Market. The group was greeted by Mark Shieh, market director, who explained the concept of creating a successful market that supported local goods and local needs. He described the rationale behind the focus of the 2-floor market: food services on the first floor, the “Hungry Floor”, and activities on the second floor, the “Curious Floor”. Using this concept, the market offers something to each member of the family, under one roof, at one time.
The New West tour ended with the Groningen visitors inviting the SFU Urban Studies group to lunch at the Wild Rice Market Bistro.
This visit provided an opportunity for SFU Urbsters to share and learn about a part of their own city, and also to compare urban issues facing different global regions. Hopefully this collaborative visit will be the first of many such opportunities for students in our program.