Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Making better use of surface parking lots and vacant lots

One of the basic requirements to create a walkable high street is to have shops, restaurants, and cafes that go right up to the edge of the sidewalk. White Rock, Downtown Langley, and Fort Langley are some of the walkable places in the South of Fraser, and all have this basic design. A surefire way to kill walkability is to break up these pedestrian-oriented streets with surface parking lots and vacant lots.

Downtown Langley and Fort Langley both have surface parking lots and vacant lots that reduce the walkability of these areas. In fact, the City of Langley basically razed a complete section of its downtown over the last few years, replacing it with surface parking and ugly blue fencing. While these areas will hopefully be developed into buildings that enhance the pedestrian realm, right now they are destroy it. What if there was something that could be done in the interim to make these places contribute to creating a walkable community.

Asphalt Alley - City of Langley's Civic Centre

Portland, OR has its share of surface parking lots in both its core and older walkable neighbourhoods. The last time I was in Portland years ago, many of these places were under-underutilized and created dead zones. Last week when I was back, I noticed that many of these surface parking lots had temporary, permanent food carts at the sidewalk’s edge. Seeing how successful this concept was in bring livelihood back to the street, it would be good to try this in places like Downtown Langley and other location where there is underutilized space and dead zones.

Food carts; an intern-use at the edge of a surface parking lots in Portland. Source:

These are interim uses that would be replaced when economic makes sense to build mixed-use building with ground level shops and services. The concept could also be extended to pop-up retail as well. This would certainly do more to improve places like Langley City than community killing surface parking lots. The City of Portland has a website about their food cart program and a guide called “No Vacancy! is an exploration of temporary use of vacant space” which contains information about this program.

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