In a Langley Township Council discussion about Aldergrove’s urban village, Councillor Charlie Fox expressed hope that the village might rise again to become the “heartbeat” of the area. “Right now, it’s probably the deadbeat of Aldergrove,” he said.
Mr. Fox might have been referring uncharitably to the social agency shops and kitchens that indicate the presence of a low-income population; or he might have been talking about the village’s air of fatigue, of having seen repeated setbacks. The village plan admits that nearby highway commercial development has drawn customers away, “as evidenced by a number of vacant store fronts and the existence of some marginal businesses.”
Aldergrove lies at the edge of Metro Vancouver. A single urban growth area sprawls across the county line that divides Langley Township from the City of Abbotsford. The historic village at the centre of this growth area, like Cloverdale in the City of Surrey, was once a railway stop; on the short-lived Grand Trunk Railway, which intersected with the Interurban at Cloverdale. There is some availability of rental and other medium-density housing around the village, and a range of retail services; but the ambience in Aldergrove village is poor, due to heavy traffic on the Fraser Highway and careless architectural design.
Recognizing the potential and the issues, Township Council and local residents developed an ambitious Aldergrove Core Area Plan, adopted in late 2010. This downtown plan is folded without any external signage into a 1979 Aldergrove area planning bylaw dated 1979 (see page 23). The long-term goal is to grow the village population from 500 to 5,000. The plan anticipates the list of desired features in the Fraseropolis Urban Villages index, promising transit, community services, walking trails and other adornments. But whether this admirable plan can trigger a rebirth of the village has yet to be seen. Township states consulted at the time of this post showed that not a single multi-family building was constructed anywhere in the Aldergrove area in 2009, 2010 or 2011.
To clarify the social agency reference above: in my view, services for low-income people are an integral part a functioning urban village, whether in downtown Chilliwack or the West End of Vancouver. It’s their absence, rather than their presence, that should be a cause for concern.
My co-tourist in Aldergrove was Fred Armstrong, former publisher of the Abbotsford Times. We ate at the Restaurante del Pollo, which we enjoyed.
[This is post #4 in our Urban Villages series.]