Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Redevelopment in Willowbrook

Willowbrook is a regional town centre according to Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy. As such, it is supposed to be a focal point for walkable development. Because regional town centres as supposed to be walkable and contain higher densities than other parts of the region, they are supposed to be connected with high-quality transit service. Looking at Willowbrook today, it would appear to be as far removed from the vision of a town centre as possible. Of course things are slowly changing.

One of the biggest changes is the proposed redevelopment of the Willowbrook Mall that will be integrated with the new transit exchange. The proposed plan would transform the mall (and more importantly its parking lot) into a walkable core.

The Township of Langley has also selected Willowbrook for high density development that could surround the new core and transit exchange.

Today much of Willowbrook around the mall contains older auto-oriented commercial buildings that are ripe for conversion into a more walkable and sustainable form. As many of the property owners are starting to redevelop their sites, Township Council will need to be vigilant to ensure that redevelopment will support the goal of creating a town centre.

View from 64th Avenue of proposed new commercial building at Langley Crossing Mall.

A recent redevelopment proposal by First Capital for their Langley Crossing strip mall (which is on the southwest corner of 200th Street and 64th Avenue) would see one of the current one-storey commercial buildings be replaced with a three-storey commercial building.

Site plan for proposed new commercial building at Langley Crossing Mall. Will replace building that currently houses De Dutch Restaurant. Click image to enlarge.

As you can see by the rendering of the proposed building, it will front 64th Avenue and can support the creation of a walkable street. While I’m sure that most people will visit building tenants via the parking lot at first, hopefully as the area becomes more walkable, the street-front will become the primary entry point. The Township of Langley must ensure that any building that fronts a street in Willowbrook be pedestrian accessible from the street.

One of my concerns is that as property owners redevelop their sites in Willowbrook, the Township will still allow auto-oriented projects. If the Township continues to allow auto-oriented design, our regional town centre will not live up to its full potential for at least another 20 years. Proposals like the First Capital redevelopment are a step in the right direction.

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