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Downtown jumbotron OK with Quay residents

A mock-up of what the jumbotron sign might look like at Plaza 88. -
A mock-up of what the jumbotron sign might look like at Plaza 88.
— image credit:

Although city staff is concerned Plaza 88’s plans for a huge digital sign will create light intrusion for Quayside condos, the area’s residents’ associations are all for it.

Plaza 88 is asking the city to allow it to put up a full-motion digital sign that would be more than three times as big as the city’s sign bylaw allows. It would be placed on a wall above Columbia Street facing the waterfront.

A planning department report to be presented to council on Monday says city staff are concerned the light from the 732-square foot (15x44-foot) sign could affect residences along the Quay and parts of Columbia Street. The report also says the intrusion could become even more of an issue when the parking lot in front of the Inn at the Quay is redeveloped for high density multi-family residential.

Penny McIvor, president of the Quayside Community Board (QCB), said the lights shouldn’t be a problem.

“If [staff] live in New Westminster, then by all means they can oppose it … It’s not facing a ton of residences, it’s facing the river and not people’s bedrooms,” said McIvor. “I can’t see it interfering.”

Plaza 88 made a presentation to the QCB board on Oct. 24, and its members unanimously passed a motion to send a letter of support to council, said McIvor. A presentation made to the Downtown Residents Association on Sept. 26 didn’t raise any concerns by its members, said president Jocelyn Smith. “It doesn’t really directly affect the Downtown.”

McIvor pointed out there are already too many struggling businesses in the city’s Downtown so anything that can be done to support them shouldn’t be discouraged as long as the ads are for mall retailers and community announcements. Plaza 88’s application commits to no third-party advertising and 10 civic messages an hour.

“We’re OK with it because we need to promote what’s in the mall to make sure the small businesses don’t fail,” said McIvor. “We’d like to see one screen with all the businesses on it rather than 50 different signs and logos all over the building.

“We’re trying to promote the businesses of New Westminster and that’s our own backyard. We want the businesses that go in there to survive. Ninety per cent of those who live in New Westminster don’t even know there’s a shopping mall in there.”

The report noted a city bylaw prohibits signs from being bigger than 20 square metres (215 sq. ft.).

“There are billboards off the Pattullo Bridge bigger than that, so I don’t understand that,” said McIvor.

The bylaw also prohibits signs with flashing or moving lights, animation, or those that could cause a potential hazard to traffic—all of which the proposed board would have, according to the report.

McIvor said the size of the building’s wall will make the screen look like a speck. In addition, she said the sign bylaw is out of date and New Westminster should embrace 21st century technology.

Although staff did not support the application for a permit, it is still being brought before council to go through the approval process and to seek direction on proceeding with the proposal.

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