From Place in Between to Place to Be

Published: December 1, 2023
From Place in Between to Place to Be

Examining the History of Coquitlam and its Evolution into a Bustling Municipality

Once a community established as a logging and transportation corridor, Coquitlam’s growth in recent decades has redefined the area as a go-to culinary destination, a cultural melting pot, and a space primed for developments to complement established and expanding neighbourhoods.

A Historic Legacy

The Coast Salish people, particularly the Kwikwetlem First Nation, were the first to acknowledge the unique beauty of the place we now call Coquitlam. For centuries, the natural canvas served as a point of marvel for inhabitants and visitors alike.

In the 1860s European settlement brought enhanced activity to the area and the construction of transportation corridors connecting the cities on the Lower Mainland – many of which still exist today. These corridors act as a testament to the enduring vitality of the area.

The opening of the Ross McLaren Mill (later known as Fraser Mills) in the late 1800’s marked a significant chapter in Coquitlam’s history, bringing an influx of French-Canadian loggers from Quebec to the region. The legacy of this migration continues today, as Coquitlam boasts the largest Francophone and French-Canadian community in British Columbia. The logging industry, with Fraser Mills at its center, served as a springboard for growth, setting the stage for the expansion and development we now see in Coquitlam.

City of Coquitlam Archives – Hauling shingle from Burke Mountain by the McCourt Brothers Logging – C6-S01-C6.511

Connecting Communities

Coquitlam’s early identity was closely tied to its geographical location, with transportation always at its heart. As the first road constructed in the Lower Mainland, North Road served as the connective tissue between the port facilities in Port Moody and the historic B.C. capital of New Westminster, and continues to serve as a vital artery.

Coquitlam was known as a “place in between” in its infancy – a moniker that certainly no longer applies. It has transcended its historical role in the logging industry and evolved into a hub for various industries, including retail, technology, and services. The city’s growth, economic diversification, cultural vibrancy, and recreational offerings contribute to a rich cultural fabric and a vital, connected hub.

City of Coquitlam Archives – The corner of North Road and Barnet Highway – C6-S01-C6.908

Rapid Transit, Rapid Growth

Coquitlam’s story of expansion was further bolstered with the introduction of the Evergreen Extension in late 2016. The almost 11km addition to the SkyTrain’s Millenium Line supplements the West Coast Express and has played a vital role in shaping the city’s continued expansion and development. With stations connecting Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby through Port Moody to Lafarge-Lake-Douglas in Coquitlam, this rapid transit option has not only connected the city to the broader transportation network in the Lower Mainland but has also influenced the urban form and development patterns in the region.

The expansion of rapid transit has encouraged a connected urban form – one that the city has embraced as it continues to invest in creating residential, commercial and retail spaces to accommodate the burgeoning population. Infill development and revitalization efforts are breathing new life through the infusion of mixed residential towers, offices, shops, dining and entertainment establishments, and public amenities.

The overarching concept guiding this transition is ‘Transit-Oriented Development’ (TOD), which seeks to foster the creation of higher-density, mixed-use, and pedestrian-friendly housing options in Coquitlam. This strategic approach not only aligns with modern urban planning principles but also reflects a commitment to building a dynamic and sustainable urban environment that enhances the overall quality of life for residents.

City of Coquitlam Archives – Burke Mountain Road at warming hut – F17-S11-F01-F17.199

Diverse Development Opportunities

Attracting residents from around the globe, Coquitlam stands as a beacon of cultural diversity. The seamless integration of historic areas and modern communities positions the area as an incubator for future development. Each neighbourhood within Coquitlam exudes its own distinctive character and charm offering residents the convenience of a 15-minute city no matter where they choose to reside.

Coquitlam is primed for expansion thanks to a robust urban growth plan encompassing a well-balanced mix of housing, retail spaces, rental and offices. The city is committed to developing complete neighbourhoods, particularly around transit and SkyTrain routes, and the Townline team is honoured to play a part in this thoughtful and sustainable community growth. This interconnected network of neighbourhoods further enhances the dynamism and character of the urban fabric – something that allows our team to continue to exercise our creativity. To ensure choices for all, including newcomers and longtime residents, Coquitlam continues to encourage a range of housing forms, reflecting both current demand and future needs.

City of Coquitlam Archives – Horse carriage on Austin Avenue – C6-S01-C6.942

Urban Expansion on the Horizon

Anticipating a surge of 90,000 new residents over the next 25 years, Coquitlam, currently home to over 144,000 people, is facing substantial and exponential growth. This expansion demands innovative gentle and high-density housing options to accommodate the influx of new residents. Transit-oriented areas like Burquitlam are predicted to shoulder 50% of this growth, while communities like Burke Mountain are expected to experience 21% of the urban growth in the coming years.

Effectively managing growth in livable attractive ways is crucial in producing a positive impact on the community. Ensuring that infrastructure and amenities, like parks, keep pace with the growth trajectory is equally important. As one of the fastest expanding cities in Metro Vancouver, Coquitlam is a growing concern – in the best kind of way!

Townline has long championed growth in the Coquitlam area, and continues to contribute to the city’s expansion through new investments. We are actively involved in various projects across the city, including BAND, Terrayne, Forester One and Two, Meridian, and initiatives from our sister company, TL Housing Solutions, which focuses on affordable rental developments including Como Lake and Hoy Creek.

City of Coquitlam Archives – District of Coquitlam Newsletter, August 1979 – F17-S18-SS01-F01-F01_10

Robust Plans for a Promising Future

The population boom will be supported by massive expansion efforts including the redevelopment of Fraser Mills and Coquitlam Centre communities.

Flanking the shores of the mighty Fraser River, the new Fraser Mills development is poised to include 96 acres featuring a blend of residences, restaurants, retail, and plenty of natural space.

Coquitlam Centre is embarking on an ambitious undertaking set to span more than half a century, with 8,000 homes to be developed in 50-storey towers, 500,000 square feet of retail space, and the introduction of a much-needed convention centre to enhance the communities’ offerings.

These comprehensive undertakings will be development juggernauts, assisting in propelling Coquitlam towards its density goals.