White Rock needs another 7,000 people living within a five- to seven-minute walk of its town centre in order for the hub to be commercially viable.
It’s a measuring stick gleaned from a former Vancouver city planner, Mayor Wayne Baldwin said last Thursday during his state of the city address, noting the planner stated an urban commercial core needs 10,000 people within that walking distance.
While White Rock has “a long way to go” to achieve that goal, it is taking “major steps” to get there, Baldwin told business leaders and politicians gathered at the White Rock Community Centre for his annual address.
But make no mistake, the city is not too small to exist on its own, Baldwin said.
“We act as though we have a community of 80,000,” Baldwin said, describing the city being largely surrounded by Surrey as “one of our greatest advantages.”
“Financially, we’re in excellent shape. We have no debt and our reserves are solid. We’re not in a panic about anything. Are we viable? Yes, you bet we are. We are very viable.”
The state of the city address is intended to share the city’s past successes and future goals with the community. Last week’s event drew about 100 people.
In outlining ongoing corporate priorities, including the town centre, waterfront enhancements and infrastructure, Baldwin said it’s not uncommon for the unexpected to change the pace of their progress.
He cited efforts to purchase the city’s privately owned water utility as one example, along with the proposed Fraser Surrey Docks expansion, last year’s byelection and the July 14 train fatality that killed White Rock jogger Anita Lewis.
In discussing development, Baldwin gave special recognition to Bosa Properties for its 2005 contribution to the Coast Capital Playhouse project. The Miramar Village developer’s $275,000 boost “was never really realized or appreciated by the public at the time,” he said, noting the new playhouse “would never have been built” without it. Bosa wasn’t invited to ceremonies celebrating the project’s completion, the mayor said, noting “I just want to correct that.”
Other highlights touched on included amendments to the city’s Official Community Plan that enabled commercial activity such as food carts south of Marine Drive; a renewed focus on the arts; and a commitment to support the Spirit of the Sea Festival.
Referencing “a little bit of consternation” that resulted from changes to this year’s festival, Baldwin said it is evident the festival “needs some help for the future.” He pledged the city’s support and said “several sources” including Rotary have offered the same.
“It’s a 60-year tradition and we do not want to lose it,” he said. “The help is there and I think we’ll be able to pull this off.”
Regarding the water-utility purchase effort, Baldwin said council is acting on it for three reasons, all of them related to saving money.
While the city will have to borrow the entire purchase amount, Baldwin said the money to be saved over the long-term – including through lower financing rates and access to government – justifies the move.
“We believe that a case can be made that it would be in the financial interests of the taxpayers for the city to own the utility and