Plaza88: the Sandwich Maze

A few months ago, the Plaza88 retail development opened to some fanfare. The new pedestrian mall wrapped around an old SkyTrain station represented an exciting new phase in the renewal of downtown New Westminster.

I blogged my initial impressions at the time, with a post that got picked up by a long-forgotten regional blog portal, and received both positive and negative feedback, mostly because my post at the time was both positive and negative. My impression at the time was: so far OK, let’s see what happens when they open the rest, and bring on the Theatres!

Since then, I actually went to the Theatres on opening weekend, saw some Avengers beat people up, and I had a pretty good experience. Big comfy seats, decent sized screen, and they don’t turn the volume up to 11. You can’t buy a pint in the Theatre, but you can a few steps away at Hops Pub, so that’s good enough. Nothing but good stuff there.

There is also a smattering of new businesses filling the gaps on the mezzanine and concourse level. The public space in and around is getting more comfortable as it gradually becomes less of a construction site and more of a human space.

The biggest problem now, however, is the sandwich signs. Following a low-burning Twitterstorm led mostly by @matthewlaird, as the numbers of sandwich signs has been creeping up towards corn-maze density and the pedestrian experience has become more daunting.

The City, coincidentally, has been reviewing their Sign Bylaw, and a report to Council this week raised the issue of sandwich boards and their impact on pedestrian space. Problem being, the pedestrian space in Plaza88 is kind of a City street, and kind of private property, there seem to be competing opinions about who is responsible and if this or any future Sign Bylaw would even apply.

Really, I think the best approach here isn’t bylaw enforcement, it is for the potential customers to put pressure on the businesses at Plaza88 to make their pedestrian space more friendly. So this post is in that spirit, with a photo tour of the concourse to see what the problem is.

How bad are the sandwich signs? I dropped by Plaza88, entering from the Quayside Drive pedestrian entrance and walking to the 8th Street exit, and counted no less than 57 sandwich boards (not including the one in the middle of Quayside Drive). Fifty-seven in a ~150m-long concourse. That is close to three times the number of actual businesses open in Plaza88, although admittedly, at least 8 of the signs belong to Safeway alone.

Approaching from the west, the sandwich signs are not too obtrusive, as there are only
a few and there is lots of pedestrian room. 
Strangely, most are in front of the business, like they are trying to catch the eye of passing
drivers… as if walkers would not turn their heads 15 degrees to the side…
Like I said, right out front. But, hey, no real problem to walk around one sign. Still looks cheap, though.


Moving towards the SkyTrain station, the signs are starting to get denser, some
advertising businesses I cannot see immediately behind them.

? ?

Density going up, at least 8 in this view, three belonging to the Theatres. 

? ?

West entrance of Safeway, almost blocked by a phalanx of sandwich boards…

? ?

…but spin around the other direction, and the real maze begins. So from this point,
4 identical Safeway boards blocking your way to and escape route from the visible front doors.

Glad to report a hardware store opening in Plaza88. Just kidding.
At the east end, the Corn Maze is complete. Note about 20 boards here, running right through the
pedestrian concourse, and no less than 4 identical Safeway boards blocking your view of,
and complicating your access to Safeway’s Front Door!

Sp please, Degelder Group, Plaza88, Safeway, whoever the hell is making the choices here, can you please do something about this ridiculous sandwich sign arms race? With the new businesses, the concorse is starting to look better and has a lot of offer. There is huge potential here to make it inviting in a more natural way than throwing and obstacle course of advertizing.

Then bring on the Indian Restaurant.

2 comments on “Plaza88: the Sandwich Maze

  1. Thank you for writing this. This is a big issue for me as well. I am a regular skytrain rider who lives a block away and use that station regularly, but I am really put off by all the signs. I have chosen to not shop at Safeway at all in protest of what I consider to be an insulting number of sandwich boards. Do they really need to have six of them within 15 feet of their main door? Do they think I am blind that I cannot see their massive store without some kind of reminder?
    The sandwich boards make the new ‘mall’ look crowded, cheap, and generally unattractive. Instead of generating my business, IGA and Donald’s benefit from Safeway’s loss. I hope that Degelder Group and the business owners at Plaza 88 reconsider the boards – the sooner the better!

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