Building a local economy on automotive repair

Crystal Glass and Boyd Auto Body, two blocks east of Maple Ridge City Hall

In most parts of Metro Vancouver, more than half the working population commutes to workplaces outside their home town — this is according to a Vancouver Sun analysis from 2014, which echoed findings from the previous decade.

A typical central area viewscape, with nature in the distance. T&T Auto Parts is on the left in this photo, Accent Glass & Locksmith (not visible) is in the strip on the right.

In my suburb of Maple Ridge, many people drive every day to the Tri-Cities (20-40 minutes one way), Burnaby (35-50 minutes one way) or even further. Not surprisingly, we have a big automotive sector. Auto dealerships are among the biggest employers, and they dominate the highway that connects Maple Ridge to the inner suburbs. Probably our most prominent head office belongs to Lordco Auto Parts, a chain with more than 120 retail locations around British Columbia.

Lordco’s office, retail parts outlet and machine shop anchor the automotive repair precinct adjacent to the Maple Ridge downtown core. The head office building looks over  Dewdney Trunk Road to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia Claims Centre, a supersize garage where technicians examine damaged cars before they approve them for repair. Our map below shows numerous auto service shops located close to ICBC, with parts retailers (including Lordco) nestled in around the repair shops.

Co-tourist Dominic Kotarski and I recently walked the precinct to document its complexity and drink some beer. We observed that after you have dropped your vehicle at the repair shop, you can catch a taxi at the taxi office, rent a car from Hertz, catch a bus from the bus loop (just west of Alouette Taxi) or turn yourself in at the police station. You can also consume an ale at one of the city’s three fine craft breweries. They are part of a trend that was noted in my previous post.

Haney Auto map

The automotive precinct in Maple Ridge, showing the city’s central park, malls, public buildings and craft breweries as of October 2017. Haney was the main village in the rural district of Maple Ridge; I have used the term “Upper Haney” to distinguish the upland plateau from Port Haney, which is my neighbourhood. There is no Haney Street in Maple Ridge, so I have invented one, taking the place of 224th. Thanks to Cindy Farnsworth for the map.

Start Automotive reduced

 

Revisiting Downtown Maple Ridge

Donair reduced

Greater Vancouver’s Livable Region Strategic Plan, adopted in 1996, identified downtown Maple Ridge as one of eight town centres of regional significance. A year or two later Maple Ridge City Council agreed to finance an ambitious town centre development with an arts centre, office complex, recreation centre and park space, all aimed at bringing people and investment to the city’s core.

The planning and execution of the project split the community and created long-term political instability. In five of the six local elections since that financing decision, the incumbent mayor has been kicked to the curb. Downtown Maple Ridge has improved; but it remains a focus for civic conflict more than civic pride. In the single election where a mayor was re-elected, his opponent staged a concerted attack on central area investment, including an “unnecessary” sewer line replacement, and collected 40 per cent of the vote. Continue reading