The next few months are a big period for the new waterfront. Several new businesses will open, the Riverwest Apartment Building will start leasing, and the tourists, whether local or visitors will either show up in droves… or not.
The waterfront has been limited up until just recently to the first two restaurants to open, Twigs Bistro and Wildfin. I have been to both multiple times and my experience has been more than pleasant each time. They seem to be fairly busy and that is a good thing. More ‘competition’ is on the way and that is also coming at a time when more permanent local residents are coming as well.
Regarding permanent local residents, The Riverwest Apartments will open this summer. It is important to note the Rediviva opened in December and has filled nicely, although they still have units to rent. These are luxury level apartments. There are only 63 units in the Rediviva whereas Riverwest is a much larger building with 207 units. I have done the tour of Rediviva and it is a very nice building with excellent amenities. It has a distinct modern motif and the location is undeniably fantastic. Riverwest appears to coming in with similarly high rents and my concern is whether they can fill that building. This is a tough time for the waterfront because it is only just starting to build out. Those that are living there now are enjoying that brand new euphoria, but how log will that last? This is an area that for all intents should be a perpetual construction zone for the next several years. It is imperative that progress continue towards that vision of a vibrant urban neighborhood with a buzz of positive activity.
Vancouver has placed some heavy emphasis on creating an urban neighborhood with a design around attracting visitors as well as permanent residents. I liken their efforts to what I have seen in Victoria, BC. Now in all reality, Victoria has a long head start on anything Vancouver USA is doing right now, but the parallels are there, none-the-less.
The city will have to make some hard decisions to protect the tourism in the area. Our region is well known for having substantial migrant and homeless populations. Our southern neighbor Portland has a serious problem with ‘illegal’ camping all over the downtown area including the ‘tourist’ spots. That city is dirty, dank, and undesirable to visit. Yet Portland city leaders have done little to curb the problem as far as any casual observer can tell.
Homelessness is a real problem and there are many people who have opinions on how to help people avoid this situation, great compassion is needed, but so may be a stern and heavy hand. One thing must be clear; the city cannot allow the new waterfront to descend into a homeless encampment zone. There will be some groups that take offense to any attempt to thwart people from living on the streets at the Waterfront, but the whole project is doomed to fail if the city doesn’t keep the area clean. Portland has already lost much of its ‘luster’ and people are flocking to the waterfront here, because it is in fact NOT PORTLAND, let’s try to keep it that way, shall we?