Burnaby couple wins 3rd in urban design competition proposing a new kind of community
The Castañón-Rumebes centred their design around allowing commercial space alongside a more traditional-looking single-family community.
Imagine a neighbourhood filled with green, walkable pathways, where children can wander off to get ice cream, and where homeowners can use their property to run businesses that fit the needs of the community—like an ice cream shop, for instance.
That’s the idea visualized by a husband and wife duo from Burnaby, who won third place in Urbanarium’s The Mixing Middle competition for their proposal, entitled “Simple Small Things First.”
The competition combined Taylor and Vince Castañón-Rumebe’s professions and passions. Taylor is an interior designer with a strong passion for urban design, and Vince works as an architect.
“We decided that it would be a good opportunity for us to try some of those other things that we’ve researched, and that we’ve learned about and try to apply it in a project. As well, it was also driven by some personal experience,” Vince told the Beacon.
“My family had a bakery in their garage that was converted. So there is kind of some personal investment there. And I’m trying to see how we can come up with something that would, you know, give agency back to homeowners, to provide some livelihood for their family.”
The competition required applicants to propose innovative mixed-use neighborhoods for four Lower Mainland sites in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, and Surrey. The Brentwood couple submitted their design for a Surrey neighbourhood near Fleetwood Park.
And the Castañón-Rumebes decided to centre their design around allowing commercial space right in alongside a more traditional-looking single-family residential area.
Their proposal involves rezoning the community as a “neighbourhood zone,” which would give homeowners in the area the ability to adapt their properties to suit the needs of the neighbourhood without more rezoning applications or red tape from the city.
Taylor said the idea was to remove as many barriers as possible and allow people to be able to do things on their own.
“Because right now, the way the zoning policy works, it’s very difficult for someone who’s a homeowner to be able to make these changes. There’s a lot of red tape, and a lot of difficulties for them to be able to do anything like that,” she said.
The project’s other major priority, which still takes into account the emphasis on “agency,” is to make the neighbourhood as walkable as possible. It includes mews in the residential design—rows of houses with pedestrian walkways or courtyards between them to encourage multi-modal forms of transport.
Taylor went back to her example of a child who wants to go and get ice cream. Especially in the Fleetwood area where the proposal is centered, she said, parents may feel apprehensive about letting their children or teenagers head down the street by themselves to an ice cream shop or corner store. And rather than walk with them, they might hop in the car and drive over instead.
“We introduced the idea of these mews, connecting the back two metres of each lot to create this pedestrian pathway,” she said.
“It’s really for the community to be able to access that coffee shop that’s just down the street that their neighbours opened up, or the ice cream shop, or whatever it might be, so that they’re not reliant on their vehicles to be able to get where they need to. And that is a lot of autonomy for people.”
The specifics of the design are, of course, centred around the Fleetwood Park area of Surrey. But Vince said the general concept can be implemented in any other city or neighbourhood, including Burnaby.
“What’s so great about our proposal is that, really, there’s nothing particularly revolutionary or new in this proposal—it’s just packaging it in a way that kind of makes sense. It’s a phased approach, and so that makes it really easy for it to take some of these ideas and really transfer [them] to any neighbourhood,” he said.
“I think that the first step is really having a deep understanding of the neighbourhood and the play.”
The couple lives in Brentwood, a hub of high-rise development in Burnaby. And while those new developments often include commercial spaces, they’re often not accessible or attainable for small businesses that are just starting out.
Taylor pointed to a Burnaby Beacon profile of local business Twins Donuts—a family-owned donut shop that’s operating out of the owners’ home kitchen.
She envisions a community where startups like Twins Donuts can easily operate commercial premises, even if they are still in the garages of their homes.
And while Twins Donuts may not be able to scale up to a storefront in The Amazing Brentwood anytime soon, she wants to look at what spaces enable local businesses to flourish in their own communities—and where the people who live there actually are.
“That sense of love is really important and makes communities better,” she told the Beacon.
“And maybe that’s a bit utopian—but you care more about a community that you’re a part of.”