The times they are a changin’

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Harewood Mall before and after the renovations

Harewood Mall before

Harewood Mall circa 2003

University Village after the changes

“University Village” (formerly Harewood Mall) circa 2009

Some cultures believe our bodies and spirits are extensions of a physical place. No matter where we roam our connection to and longing for that place remains intact.

I grew up in Harewood. It’s a neighbourhood located on a plateau just up the hill from Nanaimo’s downtown core. It’s a place alive and well in my memory and imagination.

It began as a mining community in the 1860s. Later, it was divided into five acre parcels of farm land and sold to miners who could make a living off of farming when the market for coal was down.

After WWII most of the farms were subdivided into residential lots. Several schools, shops, townhouses and community centres were added in the years to follow.

Harewood has always been a solidly working class/low-income neighbourhood. It still retains that strong community identity and network lacking in other parts of the city. Most of Nanaimo is just non-descript strip malls and pavement. With its eclectic houses and gravel sidewalks Harewood is a community without a hint of pretence or grandeur.

It’s pretty much the same now as it was in the late ‘70s and early ’80s. It certainly hasn’t changed much in my lifetime.

But that’s about to change.

Harewood has a little “downtown” area if you will, which is comprised of a few mini-strip malls and a little indoor mall anchored by Value Village called Harewood Mall. It’s the heart of the community. It’s a rather dumpy little plaza fished from a bad ‘70s movie.

Harewood from the air

Harewood from the air. Harewood Mall is the big grey building in the centre.

Developers, however, are ripping it down and rebuilding it as “University Village” in an effort to lure students from the nearby university. Gone is the old Robin’s Donuts with its brick walls, captain’s chairs and smokey doughnuts.

They’re putting in a Starbucks, (a friggen Starbucks in Harewood), as well as bigger, brighter stores that will no doubt attract a wider variety of people to the neighbourhood. I’m glad that someone saw enough potential in my neighbourhood to make those big changes.

The idea that a familiar, yet slightly depressing and outdated place can get such a big makeover, is uplifting. It’ll be awesome to create new memories in this fresh reconstruction of my old community.

If old Harewood can make this change for the better, I suppose you and I can too.

I’ll close with an excerpt from a story I wrote about The Queen’s 1983 visit to Harewood. This was one of my first published articles:

“Shortly before the royal motorcade passed Harewood Mall, the Canadian flag on the makeshift pole on the mall sign fell down. Without wasting a second one patriotic man picked up the flag and stood on the Harewood mall sign with the flag in his arms. Prince Phillip acknowledged this patriotic act with a slight nod.”

I am a resident of Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada who has blogged here for 20 years. I like to share my thoughts and feelings on my own online space. From 1998 until 2017 I worked as a journalist and I hope to use this website as an archive for all of my stories.

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