Maple Ridge council is considering a development that will change the face of downtown.
The plan includes four apartment highrises, the tallest 19 storeys, and numerous commercial and residential buildings over seven phases.
The proposed development area is three hectares (7.35 acres) and includes the redevelopment of the entire Haney Plaza mall, and will take in most of the properties between Plaza and 224th Streets, bounded by Dewdney Trunk Road in the South and Brown Avenue in the north.
“It’s the next step for our community,” said Coun. Gordy Robson. “It is the cumulative effort of a whole bunch of people for more than a decade.”
The developers, who include Tom Meier of Johnston Meier Insurance, have acquired numerous properties, 19 lots and parcels in total for a single development site.
The development will include street front retail, office buildings, residential buildings, internal mews, playgrounds, and an “east-west pedestrian spine.”
The first two phases would include four and five-storey residential buildings with commercial units on the ground floor, and the third phase would include a 15-storey residential tower. Subsequent phases would include towers of 10, 17 and 19 storeys.
“It’s very exciting,” said Coun. Bob Masse. “It’ll definitely change the community and our downtown.”
He said it is needed renewal in the downtown core, and should spark more.
The loss of housing stock is limited to a few residential lots on 223rd Street, while the Haney Plaza is a commercial space that is “well past its prime.”
Both councillors say the transit B-line, approved as part of the first phase of the Metro mayors’ 10-year transportation plan, will help to make Maple Ridge a destination, as commuters find it faster to get to work outside of the city.
Robson said Maple Ridge has been building new housing units at a rate of about 500 per year, but the new development will put that into a new gear.
“This will put us on the road for about 2,000 units per year,” he said.
“It’s our biggest development by far.”
The city staff report recommended council give the proposal first reading, noting more information will be needed from the applicant for further readings.
“This development proposal is a major mixed use commercial, residential and rental housing project in the heart of the Town Centre Area Core Precinct,” said the report.
“It will help to achieve council’s vision of creating a vibrant downtown area with businesses, stores and offices and housing, all promoting a walkable downtown with transportation choices – cycling, transit and cars.”
The development is a partnership between Bruce Johnston, Tom Meier and SwissReal Group.
The two men are partners in Johnston Meier Insurance, which was established in 1973 has 41 offices across B.C.
Jeremy Towning of SwissReal said the completed project will represent a total investment of approximately $1 billion. He estimates work will begin in 18 months to two years, depending on how long it takes to get the city approvals. The heavily phased construction will take up to a decade to complete.
“It will have a European flair, in that it’s a city within a city, with a community park in its centre,” said Towning.
“We want to plant a flag and say, ‘This is where the town core is.’”
He said Johnston and Meier have been accumulating property for the development for more than 30 years. They brought a proposal to council in 2010, but have since almost doubled the size of the site, and went back to the drawing board.
To have such a large downtown site anywhere in the Lower Mainland to create a cohesive development is rare.
“It never happens,” said Towning, adding Maple Ridge is one of the last areas where this type of project is possible.”
“We’re very bullish on Maple Ridge,” he said.
“We want to have something we’re proud of, and it will be a legacy for Tom and Bruce,” he said.