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Changes proposed to heritage wall in New Westminster

Woodlands Wall protected by heritage designation bylaw
Changes are proposed for the Woodlands Wall that's located at East Columba and McBride Boulevard.

Changes being contemplated to the Woodlands Wall will help address ongoing pedestrian and cyclist safety

Fraser Crossing Partners, which has received a contract from the province to build the Pattullo Bridge replacement project, has applied to the city for a heritage alteration permit so it can alter a section of the wall. It runs along the entire stretch of East Columbia Street in front of the Victoria Hill neighbourhood.

“The design for the new bridge will require changes to the intersection of East Columbia Street and McBride Boulevard, in great part to address ongoing pedestrian and cyclist safety hazards at that intersection,” said a staff report to council. “The proposed intersection improvements require removal of an 85.5-metre (280-foot) length of the Woodlands Wall.”

The proposal would include the removal of the entire 10.5-metre (34.5-feet) section that’s on McBride Boulevard and a 75-metre (246-feet) section along East Columbia Street. It’s being proposed that a partial reconstruction, using existing materials, will take place at a location north of the existing wall.

A report to council states there are limited sight lines for vehicles that are turning right from East Columbia Street onto McBride Boulevard, which makes it challenging for motorists to see pedestrians and cyclists as they cross McBride Boulevard.

The staff report says that the proposed design of the landing and on-ramping of the bridge can only be done by changing the location of the Woodlands Wall.

“The applicant is proposing a re-creation of a section of the wall in a new location away from East Columbia Street, including retaining and restoring a portion of the original materials,” said the report. “Also as part of this project the entranceway plaza to the Great Lawn, at the intersection, would be renewed. The renewal is set to include new interpretation of the site. No heritage trees are proposed to be removed, and impact would be carefully monitored.”

Constructed in 1909, the Woodlands Wall has a concrete base that’s topped with wrought iron panels. In 2003, it was protected by a heritage designation bylaw as part of the redevelopment of the Woodlands site.

When the site was redeveloped, the wall and the Great Lawn were protected by a heritage designation bylaw. The Great Lawn is a city-owned park that fronts onto East Columbia Street, and the wall is on the south side of the park.

A staff report stated it’s expected the application would return to council for its consideration in the fall. During the summer, Fraser Crossing Partners will be consulting with the community and stakeholder groups, including Inclusion BC, the Community Living Society, representatives of the Woodlands survivors and the New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society.

“The heritage value of the Woodlands site is connected to the history and evolution of mental health care in the province,” said the report. “As stated in the wall’s statement of significance, the Woodlands ‘history offers important lessons about 19th and 20th century attitudes towards  mental health issues and the development of humane treatment and occupational therapy programs. The value of the wall was previously assessed as part of the process to develop the Victoria Hill neighbourhood.”




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