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Northstar's Porthaven leads downtown Port Coquitlam rejuvenation

Mixed-use development to bring new residents, commercial space to city's core

Porthaven will bring new housing and commerical/retail space to downtown Port Coquitlam, in Metro Vancouver. (Courtesy Northstar Development)
Porthaven will bring new housing and commercial/retail space to downtown Port Coquitlam in Metro Vancouver. (Courtesy Northstar Development)

Port Coquitlam, one of the smaller, more quaint cities in Metro Vancouver, is working to rejuvenate its downtown and the new mixed-use Porthaven residential project is being described as an example and catalyst for the core.

Northstar Development has just kicked off its marketing strategy for Porthaven's condominiums. The development is on a site purchased from the city which had been earmarked as central to the downtown revamp. Porthaven, once built, will add 108 homes, retail space and amenities to the core of the city of roughly 60,000 that is expected to attract more people and commerce — and keep them there. 

The city’s downtown is amid a revitalization strategy that aims to improve safety, boost connectivity and walkability around the area while also upgrading event and park space and attracting more housing, vibrant shops, cafes and restaurants, the mayor and developer behind the project say. 

The Porthaven site is located near Leigh Square and surrounded by Shaughnessy Street, Wilson Avenue and Donald Street.

Porthaven starts with the city's efforts to revitalize the downtown, said Jeff Brown, executive vice-president with Northstar Development Group. 

"One of the things that city staff and the city council identified early on in the revitalization plan was that Poco (Port Coquitlam) was in a very unique position being that it is an urban location, but it has a small town charm to it," Brown told RENX.

"It's extremely close to nature."

Downtown property part of rejuvenation

The city created the development parcel on Wilson and Donald that was an integral part of the redevelopment, Brown said, calling it an essential “landing pad” for people coming into downtown from the residential neighbourhoods to the south. 

He said Porthaven's retail mix will see more animation to the edge of Leigh Square, while also bringing in more residents and business to the area. 

Brown said Porthaven includes a range of homes from studios to three-bedroom units. It's a six-storey building designed in the shape of a horseshoe with a landscaped courtyard on the second floor.

The building will also include a resident lounge and co-working space. 

The commercial zones fronting Leigh Square will include an outdoor patio space partially covered by the building and a canopy.

Brown said the retail space facing Leigh Square, which is undergoing upgrades, will be retained by the city. The plan is to curate a mix of retail uses, likely including a restaurant or cafe space. 

The development will also have roughly 9,000 square feet of commercial space fronting Wilson Avenue the developer plans to sell as strata units. That would likely include a mix of office, services and food and beverage, Brown said. 

Port Coquitlam keen to partner on redevelopments

The local government has been eager to work with developers to make the vision for the downtown a reality, Brown said. That’s resulted in progressive leadership, he said.

"And I see infrastructure already in place that rivals some of the largest municipalities in the Lower Mainland,” he said, mentioning that Port Coquitlam opened its 205,000-square-feet community centre downtown in 2021.

The centre includes The Terry Fox Library, three ice sheets, an aquatic centre, two-level fitness centre, gymnasium, a below-grade parkade and the Terry Fox Hometown Square.

The city already has a compact, walkable downtown core that provides a true centre for the community, said Mayor Brad West.

In 2019, the plan took shape in earnest and the city started purchasing several strategic properties in the area to help facilitate the projects it wanted to see completed. 

"We transformed McAllister Street, which is one of the main streets in downtown Port Coquitlam, into a pedestrian-oriented street," West said.

"The city has completed a very significant upgrade to Veterans Park, which is just off of McAllister and directly in front of City Hall.

"And as we speak, we're in construction on a very significant upgrade to Leigh Square, which is adjacent to City Hall and Porthaven will (overlook).” 

Leigh Square is being improved as an open-concept festival grounds for events and daily use. Upgrades include: a new stage; improved seating, lighting and landscaping; improved walkability and connectivity to pathways. 

More vibrant, pedestrian-friendly district

The city’s ultimate goal downtown is for a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly commercial and residential zone, with strategic redevelopment of key properties and public spaces that will retain the area’s charm and heritage.

It’s all meant to support thriving businesses and attract people to the downtown to live, socialize and spend money. 

West said development activity will continue for the next few years. "Really, what it's been about is injecting energy and vibrancy to our downtown."

He said he often hears residents say they’d like more restaurants and shops and more options for entertainment. 

"One of our goals as a city is to be the best place in B.C. to raise a family," West said.

"We see a huge number of young families moving to Port Coquitlam every year and I think that is really animating a lot of the work that's happening in our community right now."

Porthaven represents a key milestone in the plan and is also an example of what the city had hoped to see, West said. "It's going to add that energy and vibrancy that I was talking about.”

Northstar expects to start construction on Porthaven this fall with completion expected in spring 2027.

In business for more than 25 years, Northstar specializes in complex, mixed-use developments and project management partnerships across the Lower Mainland. 

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