Potential. Possibilities. Promise. These are the types of words Michele Reeves uses when she talks about Fruit Valley. Reeves, a principal with Portland-based Civilis Consultants, is helping the city of Vancouver with what she does best – making places more livable, making economic districts more successful and evaluating development feasibility – all with an eye to better incorporating Fruit Valley into the larger Vancouver community.
“Fruit Valley has more strengths than people realize,” said Reeves.
Earlier this month, Reeves helped host a “Civic Identity” workshop involving all Fruit Valley stakeholders – public and private sectors, residents and the Port of Vancouver. The goal of the workshop, according to Reeves, was to discover how Fruit Valley perceives itself now, and what story it wants to tell in the future.
“Fruit Valley has a lot of interesting elements,” said Reeves, using examples such as its “core of the city” nature, though it feels far away; residential and industrial districts that are adjacent to each other; rural elements, including a dairy farm, a skeet-shooting range; and a wildlife refuge juxtaposed with a vibrant port.
“Every place tells a story,” said Reeves. Instead of having that story be accidental and unsatisfactory, she said it is “better to think about what story you want to tell” and figure out how to implement that.
Reeves said she had conducted “tons of interviews” with business owners and residents in Fruit Valley, and “there are a lot of different stories being told.” She said she looked for “areas of energy and agreement” and tries to leverage those as she builds recommendations for practical ways to implement change for the better.
One of the areas of potential agreement that was highlighted in the November workshop, said Reeves, was the desire for more services, such as sources for lunch and coffee. Reeves said this was an opportunity to leverage existing infrastructure to meet economic development goals, while meeting community needs.
Other opportunities resulting from the workshop, she said, was an overall desire for a more cohesive feel throughout the area, instead of a disjointed hodgepodge of residential, industrial, school and rural areas; and the need for a better awareness of the positive components of the area, such as lake access, parks and green space.
Reeves said a major strength of Fruit Valley is a “core group of people who are passionate about the neighborhood.”
In January, according to Reeves, she will be presenting her recommendations for meeting some of these goals. She said she hoped her recommendations would “take everything that has been done before and help pull it together.”
“I see Fruit Valley’s ‘weaknesses’ as compelling and amazing opportunities,” said Reeves.