Monday, January 5, 2015

New Tim Hortons deteriorates walkability of Downtown Langley

New Tim Hortons under construction at 203rd Street and Douglas Crescent

If you’ve been in Downtown Langley recently, you’ve likely noticed the construction of a new Tim Hortons on the corner of Douglas Crescent and 203rd Street. The site of this new Tim Hortons was created when the City of Langley realigned 203rd Street a few years back.

Wanting to know some information about the history of the site, I talked to a former City Councillor.

One of the things that I was surprised to learn was that one of the original plans for that site was for it to become park space, with a feature to draw the eye. This would have been great.

View of Tim Hortons, looking north on 203rd Street

With the way that 203rd Street is now align, you can see the Tim Hortons site at least half a kilometer away if you are heading northbound on 203rd Street. This is an important site and is a prominent feature of 203rd Street. From a public realm and landscape architecture perspective, this site should have had special treatment.

I was told by the former City Councillor that the park idea was not supported in the end because it was believed that selling the land for development was more important than creating much needed green space in Langley’s core.

While creating a park or plaza at the corner of 203rd and Douglas Crescent was a great idea, it would have been equally ideal if the site featured a building fitting of such a prominent intersection in Downtown Langley; a building that would support a walkable downtown.

The City of Langley’s Downtown Master Plan focuses on creating a walkable core. As part of that vision, the City of Langley wants to create a storefront wall along Douglas Crescent, between 203rd and 204th Street. Right now, this section of street is the parking lot for the Langley Mall.

With this in mind, I was extremely disappointed that City Council approved the construction of a drive-thru fast food restaurant for this site.

I have been following the construction of this new Tim Hortons over the past several months.

As I mentioned earlier, the Tim Hortons site is located on a prominent corner in Downtown Langley. Sadly, when walking, cycling, or driving northbound on 203rd Street, the prominent feature is the drive-thru and back side of Tim Hortons.

Langley Mall parking lot. Tim Hortons in background

The City of Langley will not be able to build a complete storefront street wall along Douglas Crescent. The new Tim Hortons’ parking lot and drive-thru uses the vast majority of linear footage along the site.

One of the other things that I find perplexing is that when 203rd Street was realigned, the City blocked southbound vehicular access to Langley Mall citing safety best practices. It is interesting that the City opened up southbound vehicular access to Langley Mall to enable the viability of the drive-thru. This creates a new conflict point, not only for vehicles, but for people walking along 203rd Street.

City of Langley opened left-turn access to Langley Mall to enable the Tim Hortons drive-thru

I’m extremely disappointed that the City of Langley spends a good deal of time talking about how building a walkable downtown is important, yet Langley City Council has consistently approved drive-thrus and other commercial development in downtown which work against creating a walkable downtown.


Curtis K said...

Have you also noticed that the construction of the Tim Hortons seems to have been stalled for weeks? Maybe just a holiday break but seems longer than that.

Nathan Pachal said...

It started up again today

Dave Hall said...

It would be far more useful if former Councillors would have had something to say in public when they had the opportunity and it's pretty disappointing that they do not reveal themselves here.The site, fondly referred to as the "thumb" came about as a result of the 203 realignment and that Councillor probably had an opportunity to acquire property across the street. The result was an oddly shaped piece of property that has utilities running under a section of it making it unsuitable for anything other than the minimalist structure that is being built.That having been said -- it is pedestrian accessible and has a street presence far better than the previous void and probably better than another "park plaza"that would simply attract the 7 Eleven spill-over or other vagrants looking for another late night hang-out.As for the rest of the Mall, commercial/residential street presence/design is really in the hands of the Mall owners/developers.The City can't impose development but simply attempt through zoning and form and character recommendations to encourage "streetscapes". Years ago there was a proposal to build 2 inward facing Mall pods but the owners decided not to proceed. You are correct that members of APC did object to the Horton's/Mall traffic entry and the changes you note neither returned to APC nor Council before being implemented based on a traffic engineering study/consultation. Both were surprised by the right merge/left turn conflict.Regards Councillor Dave Hall.I appreciate your comments.

Nathan Pachal said...

Certainly the City cannot change the form of existing buildings, but through zoning and the development process can influence new development. As Downtown Langley redevelops care should be taken to ensure that it is a pedestrian-first area. Drive-thrus do not support a building a walkable Downtown.

As far as oddly shaped properties go, there are some great example of building that enhance the quality of the public realm.

Check out this link to see some from Vancouver.