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A soul in need

Conflicting visions on downtown revitalization

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“I think downtown is the place to be,” she says. “If you create a product that people want, they’ll come downtown.”

Eric Armour, owner of Trinity Romance Shop, is equally cheery about Squamish’s core, even if he’s located a block off the main drag.

“I opened four years ago, almost five,” he says. “And business has more than doubled. Back then, I was at the bottom of the bell curve, but it’s definitely on the up and up.”

To Anderson, that smacks of elitism. It’s not their success he begrudges, but the paradigm it represents. If this is the era of the arty boutique, with all its kitsch, irony, edge and taboo, then he’d rather travel back to the days of BC Rail and Woodfibre. Along with others in the SDNA, he’s seated in the camp opposed.

“Everything is against light industrial — anything industrial,” he says. “Don’t ignore the potential for light industrial downtown. It’s part of the mix, but there’s a bias against it. It’s well-intended, but it’s a little elitist.”

Cameron Chalmers seems almost exhausted by this debate. As director of planning, he’s no doubt heard the DNP praised as often as he’s heard it disparaged. Ask him about the SDNA’s concerns about building on flood zones, which the group gleaned from a 1991-report, and he quickly responds that building practices have changed dramatically since then — and council and developers are well aware of the risk.

Ask him about the contiguous green space SDNA sees unravelling from Stan Clarke Park to Mamquam Blind Channel, and he quickly produces a map, saying the waterfront section of the park could be realized just a few blocks south of the group’s proposal.

To people like Peter Harker, who also sits on the SDNA, there’s more at work than the duel between boutiques and industry. In addition to concerns about parklands, he quickly highlights social ailments common to the core.

“Obviously, the community is in transition, and so it’s kind of changing,” he says. “But, in my view, it’s going from bad to worse.”

Harker works in social services. He spends the early morning hours trotting out into downtown bushes in search of homeless people. When not doing that, he can often be found at his residence near the Ocean Port Hotel.