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SmartGrowth on the ground, Maple Ridge, BC

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8
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Hi there:

I live in a small town outside Vancouver in British Columbia, Canda. Our town is Maple Ridge and we are about to set out on an 18 month regenerative planning crusade which will set the tone for the downtown centre for decades to come. This is a new initiative and I was recently appointed to the committee that will oversee the project. The "Charettes" system will be employed and we plan to involve a broad variety of stake-holder groups.

If anyone has had experience with "Charettes" I'd love to hear from them and also, in the back of my mind, is the thought that as we are just starting out, the opportunity probably exists for us to run a sort of "online documentary" of the process, the first stage of which is 18 months in duration.

To get a better idea of what we are about go to our website, posted in my profile.
 
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Cardinal

Cyburbian
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10,080
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34
Frome the web site:

"Our mission is to help citizens and their elected officials implement ten smarter, more sustainable communities over the next ten years. Each will house an average of ten thousand residents, and collectively will represent over ten billion dollars of investment redirected into more sustainable forms of development."

Link:

http://www.sgog.bc.ca/sgog/about.htm


My understanding is that this is a planning effort to create new, "greener" developments? While I support the notion that new development can be designed to function better with the environment, foster alternatives to cars, etc., I also wonder if it might still be more sustainable, in the long run, to focus on improving and redeveloping existing neighborhoods and communities instead of disturbing fresh ground.
 
Messages
8
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0
Cardinal said:
Frome the web site:

"Our mission is to help citizens and their elected officials implement ten smarter, more sustainable communities over the next ten years. Each will house an average of ten thousand residents, and collectively will represent over ten billion dollars of investment redirected into more sustainable forms of development."

Link:

http://www.sgog.bc.ca/sgog/about.htm


My understanding is that this is a planning effort to create new, "greener" developments? While I support the notion that new development can be designed to function better with the environment, foster alternatives to cars, etc., I also wonder if it might still be more sustainable, in the long run, to focus on improving and redeveloping existing neighborhoods and communities instead of disturbing fresh ground.
Well, its interesting you mention redeveloping existing neighbourhoods because that is exactly what we are about here in Maple Ridge. The downtown cnetre has been established for many years, but lacks definition or purpose. Also, and this is purely my own opinion, we need more residential content to enable walk-to-retail and walk-to-work habits. The idea is to get away from the long drive to the Mall.
Clearly this will no work everywhere, but all our neighbours are thinking BIG BOX so I feel we should opt for the small-box pre-war highstreet model, but with high density residential within the downtown. Something like that.

Claus
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
regenerative planning crusade

This has to go into my Planning Dictionary :)

(Sorry-I couldn't resist. Welcome-and good luck.)

I've never really participated in an overall charette process-except for a regional charette by the local MPO transit and regional planning agency.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
Welcome Claus, it sounds like you're going to have a great project ahead of you.

My experience with charettes has been mixed. Mostly, this is because of the facilitator. A facilitator's ability to keep a widely divergent group of interests focused and on track can make or break these things. I would suggest you watch for signs of breakdown in the process early on, and alert someone in project management if yo usee that things are going astray.

Please do keep us aprised of your progress. It sounds like it will be a good read.
 
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Chet said:
Welcome Claus, it sounds like you're going to have a great project ahead of you.

My experience with charettes has been mixed. Mostly, this is because of the facilitator. A facilitator's ability to keep a widely divergent group of interests focused and on track can make or break these things. I would suggest you watch for signs of breakdown in the process early on, and alert someone in project management if yo usee that things are going astray.

Please do keep us aprised of your progress. It sounds like it will be a good read.
An update:

To date we have had two "Workshops". The turnout has been better than expected. 160 people showed up a the first workshop in our newly built theatre, the ACT. Groups were divided into: residents, business owners, deveopers, property owners, youth etc etc. The biggest group was residents, needing two tables rather than one.
The first meeting was to establish goals and objectives for the design criteria. The sencond meeting - also very well attended - was held mainly to review the objectives and goals and amend, change or delete them as appropriate. Given that we had established them in the first place, there were few if any changes.

Our residents table discussed the state of deriliction in our dowtown area and the fact that it resulted from tax rules that did little to sitmulate active redevelopment by properrty owners. In short, it is all very well that the SmartGrowth on the Ground and its partners have offered Maple Ridge this opportunity to redesign our dowtown area, but if legislators are not prepared to follow up with appropriately amended bi-laws and incentives then the exercise is nothing more than that, an exercise. I am sure Maple Ridge, British Columbia is not alone in this. Also, fingers were pointed at "foreign owners" - one should level the same accusation at local porperty owners who simply see the land in the dowtown core as a nest egg for their children and gran children. Nothing wrong that of course, except for the fact that it is short sighted in that the one thing this philosphy does not allow for is the creation of livable communities in which thier children and their children can live.

Also of interest is the fact that the District's planning staff are stoked by the charettes, but the Mayor and Council (other than a small group) are lukewarm if not frigid to the project.

What intrigues me most is that all the stakeholders seem to hold fairly common views as to how they would like to see Maple Ridge developed. This, despite the differences they may have in other areas of discussion such as politics and economics in the wider world. The charrettes process has an unexpected outcome; it generates a feeling of us against the world - the larger conurbation beyond our municipl boundary over which we have no control, but which by its decisons and actions can have a profound effect on our future.
 

fever

Member
Messages
14
Points
1
Living in North Van I've been watching the redevelopment of Lower Lonsdale over the last couple years. I actually used to live down in Lower Lonsdale when I was really little and the change is remarkable. Hopefully, similar redevelopment will begin to take place along the strip mall and car dealer infested Marine Drive corridor here. Westbank proposed 28 and 23 storey towers the other day on an old dealership site, so something might begin to happen there soon. Would this sort of development be out of the question in Maple Ridge? Is density considered a drawback to a proposal or as a bargaining chip to gain amenities for the community?


I have limited knowledge of Maple Ridge. I assume it is the most isolated and least developed of the regional town centres. This might be the beginning of the push to densify and intensify Maple Ridge along the lines of North Van, or possibly Richmond or Langley City. Have the design charettes looked at modelling your community after other suburbs in the region or are they more for looking at ideas to improve the area step by step? I'm not really familiar with charettes (around here they just hold public meetings in council or a developer appears as a delegation), so what are the advantages and disadvantages to this approach?

Hope that's not too many questions....
 
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Maple and SmartGrowth on the ground

fever said:
Living in North Van I've been watching the redevelopment of Lower Lonsdale over the last couple years. I actually used to live down in Lower Lonsdale when I was really little and the change is remarkable. Hopefully, similar redevelopment will begin to take place along the strip mall and car dealer infested Marine Drive corridor here. Westbank proposed 28 and 23 storey towers the other day on an old dealership site, so something might begin to happen there soon. Would this sort of development be out of the question in Maple Ridge? Is density considered a drawback to a proposal or as a bargaining chip to gain amenities for the community?


I have limited knowledge of Maple Ridge. I assume it is the most isolated and least developed of the regional town centres. This might be the beginning of the push to densify and intensify Maple Ridge along the lines of North Van, or possibly Richmond or Langley City. Have the design charettes looked at modelling your community after other suburbs in the region or are they more for looking at ideas to improve the area step by step? I'm not really familiar with charettes (around here they just hold public meetings in council or a developer appears as a delegation), so what are the advantages and disadvantages to this approach?

Hope that's not too many questions....
Hi there:

Lonsdale Quay is about to undergo another expansion with the DeCotis development of 12.5 acres, being the old Versatile shipyard. I

have followed the trials and tribulations of the Versatile site for some time as a friend of mine played some role in its disposal. The strip mall and car dealer infested Marine Drive has many cousins, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are too are typical of this sad indictment of urban planning in British Columbia and Canada as a whole. All parties are to blame, but to single out an evildoer it would have to be our inability to avoid parody of the United States. We just can't help ourselves. Ironically, many States in US, lead by urban planners, academics and politicians see the error of eir ways now and through an increasing awareness of the need for sustainability are leaning the other way. In Canada a few groups seem to taking charge of the new direction in urban planning, but to date have failed to recognize or refuse to acknowledge the fact that the old philosophy of the strip mall and the auto dealer dominated neighbourhood are the foundation of every Canadian town, district or city.

My problem with the strip malls and auto dealers that line, in our case, the Lougheed Highway is that at nightime they are bereft of life. Some districts in BC like Richmond or Metrotown have opted to concentrate auto dealers in one area, an automall. This seems a fairly simple and obvious solution. The trouble with the having an car dealer in the middle of town on the main drag is that the business is occupuing land that could otherwise be occupied by (as you hint at) a highrise. While there are strong arguments against highrises for blocking views of the local mountains I don't think that argument is strong enough a counter to the need for protecting agricultural land reserve as it exists in Maple Ridge, as an example.

Property owners and developers are locked in permanent battle with Planning Staff and Council in most municipalities to such a degree that no matter how sensible the solution to a particuclar problem, implementation is virtually impossible. For instance, it is said that the tax implications in Maple Ridge prevent property owners from selling properties in the downtown area. One would think that a District-proposed amendment or variance would adjust this situation and open the door to practical solutions to traffic, business, densification, choice of housing and the introdcution of new businesses which fit in with technology and information model that has become reality in our daily lives.

Density should be the aim of all urban planning in the Lower Fraser Valley. There is simply no other answer to sprawl than to redevelop neglected, abandoned, tired, ugly or oepn areas within our communities. If this involves mid to highrise solutions then so be it. The next or simultaneous goal is to create, develop and encourage new-age businesses in or around these densified areas. With this in palce we can provide entertainment, food, clothing, cultural and sporting activities, schools, colleges and healthcare and social services within these relatively tight-knit communities. Fewer cars, planes and freeways.

Maple Ridge, to answer your question, may once have been called or known as "the most isolated and least developed of the regional town cities", but I think that today there are probably many other districts who can comfortably wear the crown of "the most". We do however hold top spot in "intellectual deficit" when it comes to planning. A long, long trail of ineptitude, poor planning, greed, inward-looking and self-serving policies and the simple lack of technical knowledge has left
Maple Ridge far behind in the urban planning stakes. We may well be derserving of the Nobel Prize in the "Just Don't Get It" category. The theory of density is lost on Councils who have been bent on increasing our tax base by the voracious pursuit of subdivision applications and the establishment of ghettos purchased off the pages of off the peg architects' catalogues.

This is all about to change - or at least we'd like to think so. SmartGrowth on the ground has selected Maple Ridge as the first player in its scheme to re-plan four British Columbia Districts or Municipalities.

To answer your other question "Have the design charretes looked at modelling your (our) communtiy on other communities?" No. The idea is to obtain input from all the local stakeholder groups and to formulate through three workshops, the goals and objectives for the downtown plan with the aim of creating a unique, whole community. We have thus far held two workshops, the third one is on Wednesday March 31st at the ACT (our new theatre) and all comers are welcome. If you are in the neighbourhood you are welcome to attend. (7:00pm to 9:30pm).

The theme for the third workshop is: How do we reach our goals?

The advantage of the charrette process is that it is all inclusive. The public, council, property owners and everyone in the area and beyond are invited to participate. As someone in a previous posting mentioned we have facilitators at each table as we work through the various issues.

The whole thing is sponsored by the UBC Susntainable Communites Program, the Real Estate Foundation, Transport Canada, Environment Canada, Western Economic Diversification, VanCity Community Project Grants, Greater Vancouver Regional District, Distric of Maple Ridge, Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation, BC Ministry of Community, Aboriginal, and Women's Services.

Fingers Crossed.

The set of two 2 day charrettes take place in May/Jun.
 

fever

Member
Messages
14
Points
1
Thanks for the quick reply.. i see where you're coming from, and I agree with the general ideas you've stated. Creating dense, mixed-use, walkable communities that offer a variety of transportation modes should be the goal of the municipality and of the developer. I referred to Maple Ridge as the most isolated and least developed of the regional town centres.. the only other centre that might compete in those categories is Langley. The others are Richmond, Whalley, New West, Coquitlam, Metrotown, downtown, and the Lonsdale Corridor. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the LRSP?


It's good to see some community involvement trying to turn a backwards strip into something unique. I'm surprised at the level of strip mall development throughout the outer suburbs. It makes no sense to me that a council would approve one in their city... when they could get something much better.
 
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