Monday, January 28, 2013

New retail and office building proposed in Fort Langley

Over the past little while, Fort Langley has seen renewed interest with redevelopment projects like Bedford Landing, Lee's Market, and the Coulter Berry Builder, along with a general sprucing up of the area, as people rediscover this walkable village. The latest redevelopment proposal is for a new two-storey retail/office building and expanded medical building along 96th Avenue near Glover Road.

Site of proposed new retail/office building. Current building will be demolished. Source: Google Street View

The redevelopment will see the site currently occupied by Tracycakes Bakery Cafe and a parking lot, replaced with a new two storey building that will have ground floor retail and second floor office space. The project will also include a bistro-style eatery.

Current medical building to be expanding in the proposed redevelopment. Source: Google Street View

The development will also expand the existing Fort Family Practice medial building.

Proposed site plan. Click image to enlarge.

Rendering of proposed new office/retail building. Click image to enlarge.

Rendering of expanded medical building. Click image to enlarge.

The project gets a lots of things right. The buildings will front 96th Avenue and prioritize pedestrian access. Parking is hidden in the back of the project. This will be a marked improvement to the parking lot that currently fronts the majority of this site.

One of the unfortunate aspects of this site is that 96th Avenue actually has the right-of-way of a four-lane boulevard, so while the proposed buildings will be right up to the property line, they will still be set back from the current 96th Avenue by about 8 meters (25 feet). This could limit the ability of the project to activate the street and create an “outdoor living room.” Generally with wide right-of-ways like 96th Avenue, you need to build taller building to give an area that same “outdoor living room” feeling that you could get with shorter buildings on smaller right-of-ways. There are other ways to try and accomplish the creation of a good public realm on a wide right-of-way. The architect proposes to move the sidewalk right up to the front of the buildings, construct an outside bistro patio that goes into the 96th Avenue right-of-way, and also plant several trees on the 96th Avenue right-of-way. The moved sidewalk, patio and the trees (once mature) will go a long way to help create that outdoor living space that 96th Avenue’s proposed future width hinders.

The only thing that makes me cringe a bit is the faux-western architecture which is required in Fort Langley. I have to laugh a little because eventually all the buildings in the Fort will be mimicking an architectural style that won’t exist in any of the actual remaining heritage building.


Anonymous said...

I've always viewed Fort Langley as looking more circa Old-fashioned Traditional, than western (like Cloverdale.)
I don't like the look of this particular (planned) building, because it is morphing into the western style, which is not the feeling that envelops me when I spend time in Fort Langley.

Following is a link from describing: Neo-traditional or New-traditional.

Catherine Doyle said...

Hi Nathan, I wholeheartedly agree with your concerns about the faux western look which is also faux heritage with respect to the fort. The false front/boom town style was always more of a transitory style and was never a dominant building style beyond the temporary use of them until a frontier boom town became an established, economically viable settlement. They were intended to convey an image of prosperity with the illusion of greater verticality, thus conferring an air of more stability than they in fact had. I agree that the homogeneity that we will have if guidelines are to be narrowly applied and restricted to this one style will be less than desirable. It will herald the demise of the Fort as a unique and historical destination town as I believe it will more closely resemble the cliched "exit through the gift shop please" tourist theme town. It is a shame that the breadth of style that influenced the authentic & diverse heritage architecture of the historical settlement, as evidenced by the few remaining actual heritage buildings, will not be reflected in any new buildings.