Metro Vancouver’s 1996 Livable Region Strategic Plan tagged the Maple Ridge Town Centre as one of eight regional hot spots for commercial and employment growth, alongside Metrotown, central Coquitlam and downtown Richmond.
Local government invested $100 million in new civic buildings to fulfill the dream, but the private sector money never followed. Even on a municipal scale, many residents judge that the current retail opportunities in Maple Ridge are second-rate; they drive to Pitt Meadows, Langley or Port Coquitlam to shop.
The town centre functions to an adequate standard as a walkable urban village. It features food markets, health services, a big public library and a recreation centre. Condo and rental housing has clustered close by, with a good stock of housing for seniors.
This appeal is undercut by the scattered nature of the walkable village. I am guessing, but there is probably more vacant land here than in any town of comparable size (75,000) in Canada. There are some attractive events, such as the weekly farmers market from April through October, and some hardworking new entrepreneurs; there are also vacant shop fronts, homeless people and sex trade workers.
My co-tourist on indexing day was my intrepid wife Vicki McLeod, of VickiMcLeod.com, who has lived in Maple Ridge for 25 years. We own a townhouse on the southern edge of the village, and make frequent use of its services including the very fine Arts Centre and Theatre. We ate at the Green House, one of several independent locally-owned cafes that we like to support.
The municipal council under Mayor Ernie Daykin deserves credit for promoting the Town Centre, offering tax incentives to encourage both cosmetic improvements and substantive development, and investing in street improvements. At the time of this posting, the District website showed about 180 units of housing under construction, and close to 60 units of derelict housing have been removed. Some of the cleared land, purchased by local government for $3 million, now sits ready for development.
Other Council decisions have enabled continuing sprawl in Maple Ridge. A look at the Aldergrove plan (Township of Langley) has confirmed my view that we could comfortably house an additional 5,000 people in central Maple Ridge at a medium density. However, the market is demanding detached homes on a mixture of small and large lots, and single-use residential tracts continue to push into the forest, often far from any services.
16 years after the Livable Region strategy identified Maple Ridge as a potential regional centre, grandiose plans continue to emerge: a 5-tower, Newport style complex for the Haney Plaza property pictured here, a 3-tower row to go up behind the new casino. But given that the real urban hot spots (downtown New West, Surrey Centre) are closer to good transit and employment, I think an early takeoff is unlikely in Maple Ridge. I would be satisfied to see steady, diversified village-style development over the next several years.
(This is post #5 in our Urban Villages series.)