One of the region's most treasured historic buildings reopened today after being vacant for four decades.
In 1902, the Trapp Block was built on Columbia Street, then known as the Golden Mile, in downtown New Westminster. The Edwardian wood-frame and masonry commercial building is notable for its terra cotta facade.
It was given new life when the Salient Group began restoring its heritage facade as part of its 20-storey Trapp + Holbrook project.
"We can celebrate the reoccupation of one of the Lower Mainland's most beautiful buildings," Salient Group president Robert Fung told about 50 people, including Mayor Jonathan Cote, gathered outside on Columbia Street. "It was almost 10 years to the day that we bought the Trapp building and it's been a long process to really understand what was necessary here. It did start with, really, a love of downtown New Westminster, a passion for the street, and a strong conviction for what its opportunities are."
Originally six storeys high on Columbia Street and seven storeys on the rear side facing Front Street, the Trapp Block fell on hard times when Columbia Street went into decline in the 1970s. The new, sold-out 196-unit project incorporates the adjacent Holbrook Building, which was once a hotel and saloon, and includes heritage-inspired floor plans.
The Salient Group has restored several heritage buildings in Gastown, including the Paris Block, the Bowman Block, and the Taylor Building.
Cote and Fung used giant scissors to cut a red ribbon for Trapp + Holbrook, but not before Fung donated a 200-kilogram moulded and fabricated piece of terra cotta from the building to the New Westminster Musuem and Archives.
"We found not all the pieces could be reused," Fung said. "In some cases, the pieces were extremely large and had fractures, and could create problems with the remounting."
He also revealed that a coffee shop and a Mexican-inspired restaurant called El Santo will become ground-floor tenants in the building later this year.
Standing on the sidewalk, Cote told the Straight that Trapp + Holbrook is "a perfect example of a development that has respected the history of Columbia Street".
"If you haven't been to downtown New Westminster in the last 10 years, the neighbourhood has changed significantly," the mayor added. "We have thousands of new residents living here and that's brought a new vibrancy in terms of retail."
He pointed out that a new elementary school has opened in downtown New Westminster on the former St. Mary's Hospital site. Cote also said that his city had the highest growth rate on a per-square-kilometre basis in the region in each of the last two federal censuses.
"I think we need to recognize not all families can afford to live in single-family homes anymore," he said. "You need to make sure you have the right amenities, whether that be park space or schools in your communities."