Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Walkable Willowbrook?

When one thinks of Willowbrook, Langley’s regional town centre, walkability isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. What I find interesting about this low-density, single-use, auto-oriented town centre is that it is surrounded by higher-density housing. I received a marketing brochure for a new higher-density residential development that borders the northern edge of the Langley SmartCentre which is home to Wal-Mart. The brochure showed the following map.

Map of central Langley from housing development marketing brochure. Select map to enlarge.

I had to laugh because it shows what Willowbrook, the Langley Bypass, and Langley City would look like without the sea of surface parking lots. The map certainly presents a different vision of the area then I perceive.

I was struck at how prominently walkability was promoted by the developer. The brochure even included a quote from a current homeowner in the development who “walk[s] everywhere here. We very seldom use our car…”

With this in mind, why does Township and City of Langley council still approve auto-oriented commercial development? People want to live in walkable communities, but many of our commercial areas are not pedestrian friendly.

One of the things that I want to see in Langley is a commercial development framework that emphasizes creating great walkable public space. Surrey is showing how this can be done by requiring commercial buildings to front streets, and increasingly requiring that some parking be put underground or in a structure to reduce its footprint. Langley should pay attention to what Surrey is doing and adopt some of their best practices.

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