Thursday, September 10, 2015

Going green, literally, in Downtown Langley

One of the great things about places like Downtown Langley is that they serve as an incubator of small business, and permit the reuse of older buildings.

For example, a derelict fast-food restaurant along Fraser Highway was recently transformed into a new family-run restaurant.

Former Arby's, now family-run restaurant along Fraser Highway

Another example is a strip mall that was recently renovated.

Recently renovated strip mall at 20226 Fraser Highway in Downtown Langley

While I am happy to see buildings being reused for new purposes, and new businesses growing in my community, I’m not the biggest fan of the vibrant green paint that was used in both of the renovations pictured.

When a renovation triggers a development application or building permit, a city can require certain standards be met. For example, the City of Langley's Official Community Plan and Downtown Master Plan contain language around using “high quality exterior finishes” to “present an attractive appearance.” Other cities are more prescriptive.

The City of Vernon, where I grew up, requires “when making an application for development in the City Centre, the proponent must illustrate how the proposal addresses the design guidelines through architecture relative to its location.”

The City of Vernon has very detailed design guidelines for its downtown. For example, when it comes to colour “the use of colour will be encouraged. Historic practice has been to encourage earth tones in the City Centre. Colour must be thoughtfully introduced over time and complement surrounding colour choices.”

The design of buildings is important in any community. When creating a sense of place, the design of buildings should complement a well-designed public realm.

While the City of Langley can update its design guidelines for Downtown Langley in the future, even today, the Official Community Plan and Downtown Master Plan provide the framework for Council to ensure that new development and redevelopment contribute to creating a cohesively designed core.


Dave Hall said...

There is a clear distinction between "new development" and "renovation".
The question begs - How much involvement should the City (Council/Mayor and/or staff) have in determining aesthetics of an existing privately owned business? Certainly the Downtown Merchants Association has some interest in encouraging upgrades through their "Getting Fresh" program but this is purely voluntary and generally involves some paint and awning improvements.Renovations do not routinely come before Council and one wonders where the staff resources would come from to finance the "colour police"? The green building that you cite is beyond the generally recognized one way strip that most have advocated a theme approach for over the years. Are you suggesting that this theme approach should extend further? What theme would you suggest and how will you achieve Council support when there have been so many different advocacies in the past (50's heritage, older Langley historical, Art Deco, modern update (present public realm timeless black) etc. ?

Nathan Pachal said...

Themes are not what I'm talking about. If you want, I suggest you check out the City of Vernon guideline.

Even the City of Langley's own OCP and Downtown Master Plan spend a good amount of time talking about built-form. Built-form is very much something that Council would be focusing on. Placemaking is 100% the role of a city.

Dave Hall said...

How does one establish "built-form" or "placemaking" without some concept of what the public and business community wishes to envision? You can't simply dismiss the concept of themes as these have been the only true discussions that have arisen to drive concepts like the Downtown master Plan or the "public Realm" initiatives that have been most recently adopted. The OCP has had some consultation with "focus groups" and has been modified over the years with little citizen engagement in public forums or consultation.Frankly there has been a very low turn-out at any "open houses" intended to gain public response to proposals. How would you change this?And once again - how far would you extend the Downtown reach and to what extent would you impose form and character guidelines on existing property owners???
Is there anyone else out there that might comment?

Anonymous said...

Sure, I'll comment. That shade of green looks gross.