Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Charleston Place 2.0: No mixed-use

Back in April 2012, the City of Langley’s then Mayor Peter Fassbender and developer David Phan announced Charleston Place. Located at the corner of Industrial Avenue and 203rd Street, Charleston Place was to be a 15 storey, mixed-use building. It would have ground-level retail units, several upper floors of office space, and high-end condos. If this project actually came to fruition, it would have been a game-changer for development in Downtown Langley.

Charleston Place 1.0. Select image to enlarge.

Since this building would have been expense to construct, and since Langley City is one of the most affordable places for real estate in Metro Vancouver, I asked several developers if they thought the project would get off the ground. Charleston Place was completely different than any other project recently proposed in the City. Two developers told me no; I posted about this in April 2013.

It turns out those developers were right. Last night, City of Langley Council heard a new proposal which I’ll call Charleston Place 2.0. It is a five-storey apartment building.

Proposed 5 storey, 78 unit condo building. View from 203rd Street. Select image to enlarge.

I have no issue with low-rise buildings. Four to six-storey buildings provide the right density to support walkable, transit-friendly cores and corridors. These size buildings are probably the right scale for Downtown Langley. I am disappointed that there is no ground-level retail in this proposed project.

Proposed 5 storey, 78 unit condo. View from Industrial Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

While I would normally be in full support of a single-use apartment building project one block away from Fraser Highway, this project's location will be kitty-corner to a future transit exchange. Creating a vibrant, safe, and pedestrian-friendly area will be key to the success of the transit exchange. This apartment project will create a pedestrian dead zone. You can read more about the future transit exchange on a previous blog post.

Since I’ve lived in Downtown Langley, I’ve seen one drive-thru built, one drive-thru being building, and several single-use apartment buildings constructed in Downtown Langley. In recent memory, the Muse (at 20238 Fraser Highway) is one of the only mixed-use buildings that I've seen constructed in Downtown Langley.

Buildings with ground-level units for retail stores, cafes, and restaurants —fronting the street and treating pedestrians as first-class citizens— are the key to the success of Downtown Langley as a walkable core.

Lately new development projects in Downtown Langley seem to be reducing the opportunity to create vibrant, pedestrians-friendly areas.

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