Friday, November 14, 2008

Letter published in TIMES November 14, 2008

Albion flats is the wrong area for big boxes
The Times
Published: Friday, November 14, 2008


While the fight over Jackson Farm carries on, I see that a new website has sprung up to promote a shopping centre on Albion Flats. We need to think long-term and big-idea. We need to think culture -- historic, aesthetic, economic. I was, and am, strongly opposed to simply plunking down a Walmart in the Albion flats.

I hate the idea of swallowing up all small business prospects in Albion for a generation with an aesthetically revolting big-box store on 20 acres of asphalt, which is what they have in many Walmart locations.

But the idea of an actual, diversified shopping community, with an appealing layout and architecture, where smaller business mixes with anchor tenants, is something different. The Coopers mall at 240th and Dewdney is a good, small-scale example of this idea.
The demand for shopping is obviously there, but does it need to be another terrible, generic, thoughtless exercise in design where a quick dollar trumps other, more thoughtful, considerations?

As for Jackson Farm, I ask these questions: In a land of strip malls and subdivisions, how many significant historic touchstones do we have?

How many areas of historical significance combined with pastoral beauty? Surely enough people recognize the need to maintain and celebrate the few such areas that we have. There are numerous areas in Maple Ridge for potential subdivision development. Why, why, why, does every piece of land have to generate visions of housing? Where there's a will...

Albion still has the potential to be a model for sensible suburban development, but it is on the cusp of being overrun by short-term interests. Think of the possibilities: An appealing, diverse shopping development on the Flats and a gorgeous, historic park within biking distance. Claus Andrup has long put forth, to anyone who will listen, creative and exciting ideas for turning the banks of the Fraser into a quay-style development. 

The possibilities are many and great, but one pleads with the universe that a critical part of any plan will be to contribute positively to the long-term culture of this, and any, local area.
Think different, Maple Ridge.

Geoff Westby,
Maple Ridge

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