Improving downtown Ridge aim of two ongoing projects

More police presence, keeping it cleaner among suggestions

Downtown Maple Ridge needs more police presence, better lighting and cleanliness, and more affordable housing, according to a project aimed at attracting more people to the area.

Better signs for parking and longer store hours were other suggestions from “Placemaking in the Town Centre.”

Police need to be more visible on the street, although the Placemaking project found that Mounties already do downtown foot and bike patrols, and park their cars in strategic spots while doing paperwork.

Keeping the downtown presentable is an ongoing effort, says Coun. Bob Masse, whose concerns led the creation of the Vibrant Downtown Task Force in spring.

Masse, whose chiropractic office is in the middle of the town centre, noticed more crime and strangers and prostitution in the summer of 2012. The task force resulted from him raising those concerns.

That group, composed of business community, social service sector, RCMP, and district staff, called for more free Wifi locations, better lighting, a night market on 227th Street, better signs to show people how to get around, and painting front windows of vacant buildings to create a better atmosphere.

Some progress has been made. Lighting has been improved in some alleyways, such as off Dewdney Trunk Road, between 222nd and 224th streets, he said.

This fall’s opening of Target and the Chances Maple Ridge gaming centre and soon the opening of Club 16, a  gym facing Memorial Peace Park, are further advancements.

“The Trevor Linden gym, that will be a big deal,” he said. “I think that will be significant.”

That will bring more people in to the area.

“I think that will significantly change the game and we’ve just got to keep that going.”

With better shopping at the Haney Place Mall, perhaps smaller stores also will stay open longer, Masse noted.

Meanwhile, Masse is still pushing his adopted cause, caring for the mentally ill, despite the provincial government’s announcement that it won’t re-open Riverview hospital.

“We have to keep it top of mind.”

The Placemaking project says work should continue to make the downtown “vibrant and unique.”

It says that businesses, residents, non-profit groups and citizen groups should keep working together and that  arts and culture can “heighten quality of life and create vibrancy, interest and intrigue.”

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie said the initiative was inspired by seminars on municipal planning and design. Minor changes in how street corners or public places are designed can strengthen a community by making it easier for strangers to connect, she pointed out.

But work needs to continue on an ongoing basis, said Masse.

“Things have improved. Do they have a ways to go? Absolutely.”

Activities such as fairs and festivals already take place in the downtown.

“We’ve just to got to keep reinforcing that positive feedback loop in the downtown. I certainly hope and expect it will continue to build that way.”