Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October 17, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Cascades Casino expansion approved as well as development variance permit

This is part one of two posts about last night’s City of Langley council meeting. This post will be about the development permit and development variance permit which council ended up approving.

Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, the owners of Cascades in the heart of Downtown Langley, had a development permit for a 23,056 sq ft expansion of their facility. The major components of the expansion include two new restaurants, expanded convention centre space which includes a new rooftop reception space, and an expansion to the gaming area. I should note that the amount of gaming equipment will not be expanding at this time.

According to Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, this project will result in about 100 new full-time jobs being created in Langley.

There are some issues with the current design of Cascades when it comes to the public realm. The facility is set back from Fraser Highway by about a block with surface parking between it and Fraser Highway. The current design of the casino also includes many blank wall. Altogether, this doesn’t create an engaging, pedestrian-friendly Fraser Highway along the frontage of Cascades.

There are several things in this development proposal that will enhance the public realm, and hopefully set the stage for future expansion. The expansion of the facility will see the replacement of blank walls as shown in the following renderings.

Cascades Casino expansion renderings. Select image to enlarge.

This is a vast improvement over the current design. Also good is that some of the surface parking fronting the facility is being replaced to accommodate this expansion. A new landscaped sidewalk will front the expanded facility.

Site and landscaping plan for Cascades Casino expansion. Select image to enlarge.

One of the remaining challenges is that even with the expansion, Cascades is still setback from Fraser Highway. Right now, there is a pedestrian connection at 56th Avenue/Fraser Highway to the west entrance of the casino. The sidewalk is narrow, has no pedestrian scale lighting, and has limited landscaping.

Eventually, I hope that Gateway Casinos & Entertainment will be able to expand their site to have one or more buildings front Fraser Highway that will create an active and engaging public realm. As an interim step, I asked the architect at the meeting if he would consider improving that 56th Avenue/Fraser Highway pedestrian connection to create a more prominent pedestrian-friendly entrance from Fraser Highway. This would enhance the public realm along Fraser Highway, encourage people walking along Fraser Highway to visit Cascades, and provide a cue for people visiting Cascades to explore Downtown Langley. I believe this would be a real win-win.

The architect supported this idea. Later during the meeting when council was voting on whether to approve this development application, I asked our Director of Development Services if we needed to amend the development permit application to include wording to ensure that this enhanced pedestrian access would be built. I was told that we didn’t, and that the City will be working with Gateway Casinos & Entertainment to make this happen.

As part of the expansion of this facility, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment will also be upgrading the streetscape along the sections of Fraser Highway and Glover Road which front their property. This will most certainly enhance the public realm.

The combination of the new expansion, streetscape improvements, and enhanced pedestrian connection between Fraser Highway and Cascades will be a welcomed addition to Downtown Langley.

An example of the scale of the new houses as part of the subdivision of 20508 46A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

As I noted earlier, council approved a development variance application for the subdivision of 20508 46A Avenue. The front width of the lot was varied from 16m as required in our RS-1 zoning to 15.4m. The proponent of this application received the support of his neighbours, and the proposed houses appeared to fit within the character of the neighbourhood which is why I supported the variance.

Tomorrow, I will post about the other items discussed at Monday night’s council meeting.

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