City of Richmond preserves Steveston Village's heritage nature
Steveston Village, located in the southwest corner of Richmond, was first founded as a fishing village in 1880s and by the turn of the century it was the center of economic activity in the region. Boasting the largest fishing facility in the British Commonwealth, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, attracted pioneers from all over the world to Steveston Village. While overfishing and industrial development would eventually force the Cannery to close in 1979, each ethnic community left their mark on Steveston Village. The Gulf of Georgia Cannery, which was eventually converted into a National Historic Site of Canada, represents the central role that the multicultural industrial waterfront played in settling the West Coast and establishing BC as a base for natural resources.
As Richmond faces rapid population growth and pressure to redevelop, the changes to Steveston’s commercial and residential landscape threaten the Village’s heritage quality. The docks host a daily fish market selling freshly caught seafood. Across from the waterfront several corporate enterprises including Blenz, Starbucks, and McDonalds, and dozens of small businesses have opened stores in the Steveston area. As well, new condominium and townhouse developments are being built to keep up with the growing demand for residential real estate in close proximity to the water. Longtime Steveston residents, sharing a strong community sensibility and a passion for their homes, welcome the modern developments to meet the evolving needs of the community yet want to preserve the unique historic character that defines Steveston.
The City of Richmond undertook the Steveston Village Conservation Strategy and Implementation Program to determine the long term vision for Steveston Village and inform its future development. The first step of the Program was bringing together the key stakeholders and the Richmond Heritage Commission to define the parameters of the challenge. Terence Brunette, Policy Planner for the City of Richmond, says, “The goal was never to freeze development in Steveston Village and turn it into a living history museum , rather the fundamental principle of the project was about cherishing the heritage quality while managing the change.” Engaging numerous stakeholders and involving various groups, the project was multi-step requiring research, planning, public consultation and education, and subsequent policy reform and outreach.Intending to be a model for other communities in BC, the documents that came out of the Steveston conservation program are meant to be resources for other BC communities that also want to establish heritage conservation policies and guidelines.
The City of Richmond prepared the [Steveston Village Conservation Strategy] with the assistance of the Richmond Heritage Commission and heritage consultants. This document identifies the 17 of the 90 buildings in Steveston Village that have heritage value. Their status as heritage buildings means efforts are made to protect them and their exteriors must comply with the [Federal Heritage Standards set by Parks Canada]. Since heritage building owners are responsible for complying with these guidelines, they may be entitled to financial incentives to assist them with the undertaking, which the Conservation Strategy outlines. The document also dictates how other properties in the Village can be redeveloped, detailing policies surrounding urban design and conservation.
The [Richmond Official City Plan] is a legal community planning document that will guide Steveston’s social, economic, land use, servicing, and environmental future. The vision and goals were determined through a public consultation process and reflect the community’s values.To build capacity for other municipalities undertaking similar heritage conservation initiatives, The City of Richmond prepared a Generic Heritage Conservation Tool Kit for BC Municipalities. The generic regulatory measures and financial incentives were identified and analysed, thereby providing the foundation for the Implementation Program generally, and the Steveston Village Heritage Conservation Tool Kit in particular. “These documents provide a much more thorough, complete and current summary of heritage conservation measures, as applied in the BC context, than has been available for some time,” says Brunette. “There is excellent material in both toolkits. They will take you through the process from the generic options and tools right to the specialized application in Area Plan and Zoning Bylaw Schedules.”For example, the [Steveston Village Heritage Conservation Tool Kit] includes both proposed Area Plan and Zoning District revisions, in addition to such "Shelf-ready" templates as:
- A model new “Steveston Village Conservation (SC) District,”
- A model Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA),
- A model Heritage Conservation Covenant (for buildings and land),
- A model Heritage Conservation Covenant (for landscaping),
- A model Resolution Authorizing Heritage Inspection,
- A model Heritage Permissive Tax Exemptions By-law,
- A model Revitalization Permissive Tax Exemption By-law.
In 2005 the Real Estate Foundation granted $75,000 to the City of Richmond to undertake the conservation project. With its strong land use planning and related educational outcomes, the Foundation recognizes the potential for the Steveston Village project to be a model for other communities in BC interested in similar heritage conservation initiatives.Story by Elysha Ames