Green roofs and bike racks plus shopping as Walmart comes to PoCo

New Walmart in Port Coquitlam opened today

Karo Stein

Karo Stein

It was a study in contrasts: while crowds of shoppers cruised the aisles with heavily-laden grocery carts on grand-opening day Friday, the roof of Port Coquitlam’s new Walmart Supercentre was quiet and serene.To the east the view of the coastal mountains was spectacular and the lush foliage on the banks of the Pitt River created a wall of green. But it was the 220,000 hand-planted sedums and succulents that were taking root on Walmart’s roof that drew one’s attention.The tiny, colourful, drought-tolerant plants that more-rightly belonged in rock crevices or an alpine meadow stretched out as far as the eye could see on 113,467 square feet of the roof’s 151,290 square-foot surface. Bigger than two NFL-sized football fields, the roof is one of the largest in the region, and the green-roof a first for the publicly-owned multinational corporation, yet few will get to see this garden of miniature plants.For one thing, you have to climb a 30-foot ladder to get there, and it’s not part of the amenities, such as groceries, dry goods, and a garden centre that are drawing shoppers from Pitt Meadows to Port Moody to 2150 Hawkins Street (off Lougheed Highway) to view the newest big-box discount store. (In fact, the green roof is not designed for public access.)The green roof is the first example of PoCo’s 2006 bylaw amendment that now requires all buildings over 5,000 square metres (53,821 square feet) to use green technology to reduce the heat island effect of large buildings, boost energy conservation and promote natural dispersion of storm water run-off.When it was introduced, many in the industry, including the Urban Development Institute, expressed concerns about a projected tripling of roofing costs, maintenance and liability. The UDI called for a voluntary approach, more flexibility and incentives and the city moved in some small ways to meeting those demands.It didn’t go as far as the City of Toronto, which offers financial assistance for green roof technology, it does allow variances for certain business cases (such as large, unheated industrial storage) and will consider other improvements instead if they get the same environmental outcomes or better. As for costs, the city maintains they should be no more than 10% higher than traditional roofs with the investment paying itself off in two years with reduced heating and cooling costs.The Walmart roof cost $1 million and includes a landscaped bioswale where water from the roof is channelled into a pipe, then drops 35 feet, before bouncing off a couple of boulders to disperse into an attractively-laid out rock and gravel bed below. There, it slowly percolates into the groundwater.Onni development manager Mike Mackay said the investment was significant but will be offset by reduced heating and cooling costs and the fast-tracking of the project, in which the city shortened the application process by one to two months, and shaved off some of the project’s capital carrying costs.”It is a significant cost to the project. That said, we did experience the benefit from a more efficient building and in the approval process.”Mackay also pointed to other design elements built into the project to reduce its impact on the environment, such as landscaped bioswales throughout the parking lot, as well as outdoor LED lighting.”It (the bioswales) will naturally filter the storm water and create less stress on the city’s storm sewer system,” Mackay said.With Walmart completed, Onni is awaiting the construction of Canadian Tire, the next anchor store for the Fremont Village Shopping Centre, slated for a build-out of 760,000 square feet over the next several years, including two 30-storey towers, and a pedestrian-oriented fashion retail centre to the south. To the west, plans are unfolding for banks and restaurants, with development permit approval expected soon for CIBC, the Royal Bank, Shoppers Drug Mart, A&W, and Burger King.Mackay said the the goal is to create pedestrian linkages between the stores and to encourage people to walk once they get to the mall because all of their shopping needs will be in one place.  Some may even consider moving to the area because of access to all the amenities and he predicted a reduction in automobile traffic and emissions will result.”We want to establish a viable commercial environment and really establish a community around that,” Mackay said, noting that PoCo is an ideal destination for an outdoor pedestrian-oriented shopping destination because people love to walk, as evidenced by the Len Traboulay-PoCo trail which is a short distance away.In fact, the city is just now putting the finishing touches to a $9.9 million project to increase diversity in the Pitt River with channels, ponds, marshlands, islands, roosting posts for birds and basking rocks for snakes paid for in part by developers for habitat compensation.However, cars were very much in evidenced on grand opening day as shoppers flocked to see the new Walmart. But two bikes locked on rack placed prominently next to the entrance could be a sign of things to come.dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

BY THE NUMBERSPort Coquitlam big box storesCostco 135,000 square feetHome Depot 102,000 square feetWalmart 151,290 feetWalmart green roof 113,467 square feet