Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Is Aldergrove's Core Rotten?

This weekend, I headed to Abbotsford on transit to attend a friend’s wedding. A transit trip to Abbotsford means stopping in Aldergrove. I’ve been to Aldergrove a handful of times, but this weekend I decided to spend a bit of time and actually walk through the community’s core. When driving through Aldergrove on Fraser Highway, you might think that it has a small, but successful core similar to the City of Langley. When walking, I noticed that there were many closed-down businesses, businesses that looked like they were on the verge of shutting down, and bordered-up buildings. As a pedestrian, I also noticed that there was more parking lots than actually buildings which hinders walkability.

On the topic of walkability, I noticed that there is a lack of market-priced medium and higher-density residential housing in the core. This lack of sufficient housing density and the abundance of surface parking lots are certainly a few of the reasons why the Aldergrove core appears to be on life-support.

I also know that Aldergrove has a negative reputation that is often association with crime. The amount of empty and boarded-up commercial buildings further reinforce this reputation of the community.

While the Township of Langley has a great plan for the Aldergrove core, Council approved development projects in the community are working against revitalizing the core. Township Council has approved strip malls along the edge of Aldergrove and has approved housing projects at the fringe of the community which further draw business and people away from the core.

I know that the Township is hoping that the $50.4 million Aldergrove Community Centre will kick start redevelopment in the community, and while Aldergrove certainly deserves community amenities, I know that the Newton Wave Pool in Surrey didn’t cause a major transformation of Newton’s core.

You need a combination of businesses near a sufficient density of people within walking distance to have a successful walkable core. I good example is Fort Langley and Bedford Landing.

I don’t think that all is lost in Aldergrove though. Aldergrove has a large, mostly abandon mall in the core of the community. This is a prime location to lay the groundwork for revitalizing Aldergrove. As identified in the Aldergrove Community Plan, this site would support medium and high density residential with ground-level retail units that would front the street.

Many municipalities, including Surrey, have created development organizations that partner with the private sector to jump start revitalization projects. These development organizations build seed projects that attract further private-sector investment in the community.

After spending some time in Aldergrove, I believe that the redevelopment of the Aldergrove Mall site will be paramount to revitalizing Aldergrove’s core, and will send the signal that Aldergrove is open for business. The redevelopment of the mall site may need support from the Township of Langley through a private-public partnership.

1 comment:

Blair said...

My in-laws live in Aldergrove and I can explain the issue with the town in one word: "water". Right now all development in Aldergrove is stalled because the current water supply limits growth in the area. You can't put in increased density without water for the residents and so there has been almost no development in the area. Aldergrove was a thriving little community until about 15 years ago and has the potential to rise again but not until the new water line is completed and the Township has a steady supply of water.

Of further note, Aldergrove is fighting a losing battle on some corporate fronts because Aldergrove merchants pay Translink levies and taxes while 2 minutes down the road Abbotsford businesses do not.