Aesthetic Maple Ridge: Rolling the dice in Selkirk East

A condemned house in the Selkirk lands before its demolition in 2011

A condemned house in the Selkirk lands before its demolition in 2011

For more than two years, my home community of Maple Ridge has been waiting to see a private-sector vision for a key parcel of land in the town centre.

The vacant three-acre site, bounded by Selkirk Avenue on the south and 119 Avenue on the north, with an interior street through the middle, is critical to the future of the Maple Ridge Town Centre urban village. Careful development, if it occurs, will bring pedestrians and new life to the city’s core. Continue reading

The subtle charms of downtown Maple Ridge

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. Continue reading

Aesthetic Maple Ridge

My neighbour Claus Andrup and I recently published a little book about our home town in Metro Vancouver, if “published” is the correct term.

Our purpose with the book is simply to take a walk through Maple Ridge. “The central area, while significantly improved since 2009, is still vastly under-developed.  Outside the central area, neighbourhoods have been created, and are being created, without nearby commercial services or aesthetic focus.  And while there is something called an Official Community Plan, there is a lack of civic cohesion or consensus around what direction we should take.” Continue reading

The suburban high street at risk: a Fraseropolis example

The modern history of Canadian cities can be written partly as a struggle between the pre-1939 shopping street — or high street, as they say in the UK — and the automobile-oriented shopping centre.

The high street has seen repeated setbacks, with the creation of full-service shopping centres in the early 1960s, the covered mall a few years later, and the big box more recently.  In most cases, the shopping centre offers the retailer a reduced level of risk in terms of customer traffic levels, security, building maintenance and flexibility for expansion or contraction.  For the shopper, the shopping centre often promises lower prices and an escape from the weather.

In fact, the high street has become something of a niche phenomenon — patronized by the carless, by friends and supporters of individual merchants, or by odd ducks who like to walk and browse but not necessarily buy.  Continue reading

Development at Albion Flats – the background

The laws protecting B.C.’s agricultural land have been controversial ever since they were enacted in the 1970s.  Recently, the Agricultural Land Commission rejected a proposal by the District of Maple Ridge, a part of Metro Vancouver, to open more than 250 acres of the Agricultural Land Reserve for development, but the ALC has left the door open for a less ambitious plan.  The ALC’s position, communicated by letter, was  announced at the final Maple Ridge District Council meeting of the year on December 5.

The proposed construction of big box retail on the Albion Flats has been controversial in Maple Ridge.  The “pro-shopping” side was the clear winner in the November 19 municipal election; all of the Council candidates elected had been endorsed by interest groups that supported retail development on the Flats.  For the Fraseropolis region, it’s another example of a continuing suburban sentiment in favour of the hopscotch-style, automobile-dependent development that has dominated Port Coquitlam, Abbotsford and other municipalities in recent years.  Continue reading