After pouring money and love into the downtown, another area closer to the big malls farther west is popping up in Maple Ridge.
A handful of businesses are either relocating or renovating near the corner of 207th Street and Lougheed Highway.
“Everything is going according to plan,” said Christine Carter, planning director with the District of Maple Ridge.
“The street is starting to look nicer and that’s the gateway to our community.”
Carter recently briefed council on the future of Lougheed Highway between the downtown and the border with Pitt Meadows.
The development of 207th Street as a thriving retail corner was predicted and encouraged in Maple Ridge’s 2006 official community plan because when people were giving input to the plan, they wanted to protect the downtown and prevent commercial growth from gobbling up the residential areas on Lougheed.
In return for preserving the homes and apartments along Lougheed Highway, the plan did allow for a wider variety of auto-oriented shops and services in the more concentrated commercial zones at 207th St., as well as at Laity and 216th streets.
The result is the appearance of Brown’s Social House, under construction, a new $7-million Mark’s clothing store, the new Mageta Medical Centre, an expanded Kal Tire operation, a Royal Bank (planned for 203rd Street), a new Carline Muffler shop, a renovated and expanded Marv Jones Honda and a new mall, now the location of Wings Restaurant.
Carter said a key part to creating the zone is requiring building guidelines that create an ambience. Buildings are to be built close to the street with parking at the back. Brick, stone and wood exteriors are encouraged while canopies, awnings and overhangs make it easier for people to get around in bad weather.
Landscaping and screening guidelines further add to the attraction of new developments.
The changes aren’t happening at downtown’s expense, but foster growth of auto-oriented businesses.
Carter added the focus on the downtown is encourage smaller, boutique-style shopping.
“I think the downtown is doing really well,” she said.
The opening of one of the new shops on 207th St., though, means the closing of a major store in the downtown.
Jeremy Bekar, with Mark’s, wants the new 20,000-sq.-foot building open by next March.
“We’ve been looking for new space in the downtown for 10 years and we just couldn’t find it,” he said Tuesday.
The new store is almost three times that of its present location on Lougheed Hwy. at 228th Street, where its been for 22 years.
The new spot, just east of 207th St., will have easier access and double the amount of parking. Interior design elements have been borrowed from Maple Ridge’s past to make it unique, Bekar said.
He added that the downtown needs to be marketed better and needs anchors, either major stores or attractions, to attract more people.
“Show people what your plan is. It’s pretty simple,” he said.
Ineke Boekhorst, executive-director of the Maple Ridge Downtown Business Improvement Association, agreed another anchor would be nice, but noted there are three of those in the downtown – Thrifty Foods, Target and London Drugs. The new Club 16 Trevor Linden Fitness centre downtown is another attraction, as is the new Chances Maple Ridge community gaming centre.
With the environment in mind, people are starting to return to old habits of parking their cars and walking around to do their shopping.
“They are now thinking about the environment. They are thinking about shopping closer to home,” she said.
“You go to any mall and the stores are all the same.”
With the price of gasoline rising, more people could start cycling to do their shopping.
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce president Terry Becker said the trend for motorists seems to be to head west once they reach Lougheed Highway. That’s drawing businesses in the same direction.
As a commuter and motorist, “I’m going to go where it’s easy to park,” she said. “Everybody is busy.”
Meanwhile, the Haney Bypass, diverts any eastbound shoppers from downtown.