Maple Ridge BIA looking forward to 5 more years

‘Now we feel the downtown looks a lot better’

Elaine Magus

Elaine Magus

The downtown business group wants to keep drumming up business in the area for another five years.

To do that, it needs a new bylaw and some more money, the first of which should be on its way in a few weeks after council was to give first reading Tuesday.

Maple Ridge council has told staff to write up a new bylaw that will allow the association to exist for the next five years, from 2012 to 2017.

That will create the framework to allow a higher levy, raising the total take next year from its 1,000 or so members to $193,500 from $163,500.

Ineke Boekhorst, executive-director with the BIA, said before requesting a renewal of the bylaw, the association asked its members earlier this year if it wanted the BIA to continue.

Of the 10 per cent who replied, all wanted the association to keep doing the work it’s been doing the past five years.

When the BIA was first created in 2006, one of the last municipalities in B.C. to do so, the focus was on crime and safety. That’s improved in the downtown, thanks to a $50,000 budget this year for that, provided by Maple Ridge.

And thanks to the $50,000 annual facade-improvement program, the place is looking good.

“Now we feel that the downtown looks a lot better, we feel that the crime rate looks a lot better. Now we feel it’s time to do marketing.”

That will be directed outside of Maple Ridge to encourage newcomers, but also aim at convincing Maple Ridge residents of the merits of the core area.

Boekhorst considers the facade improvement program one of the highlights of the past five years.

This year, the association will dole out $50,000 to eight businesses to help them in their spruce-up efforts.

That, in turn, will generate renovations worth $3 million as businesses use the free money to kickstart projects.

Complete reconstruction of 224th Street and two blocks along Lougheed Highway in the downtown, thanks to the district’s Downtown Enhancement Program, has also helped.

But it’s now up to the BIA to ensure that businesses keep up their pride in their premises, Boekhorst pointed out.

As for the development of Albion flats, currently in the middle of a planning process, “The merchants are really quite divided on it,” she explained.

In a report to council, economic development manager Sandy Blue said the BIA wants to broaden its focus and follow the district’s strategic plan.

The report also says that Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy calls for Maple Ridge’s population of 74,000 to double by 2040, with half of that growth taking place in the downtown.

So far, the municipality has spent nearly $60 million on a new library, arts centre, youth centre and Memorial Peace Park over the past several years.

Combined with the Smart Growth on the Ground-based plan, which calls for an eco-friendly downtown, more than 1,500 new condos have been built in the downtown area.

“There’s lots going on,” said Boekhorst.


More facelifts

In return for $50,000 of public cash, Maple Ridge’s downtown will get $3 million worth of facelifts – and a deadline of Dec. 31 to get it all done – all thanks to the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association’s facade improvement program.

Three companies are getting $10,000 each, with the highest profile project being Haney Place Mall. Narland Properties will use the cash to help with a $2.7-million south facade renovation this summer.

Fuller Watson furniture will get the same amount for the final $65,000 stage of its facade improvements on Lougheed Highway and 224th Street.

And the ReMax real estate office on Dewdney Trunk Road and 223rd Street gets the same amount to help out with a $101,530 renovation that will feature new windows, paint, signs and canopy.

The smallest grant was awarded to Canine Connection dog-grooming service, at 22346 Lougheed Hwy. It’ll get $1,100 for a $2,800-project that will see new awnings and paint on the shop.

Manager Dina Popadiuk says she probably would have waited another year if it hadn’t been for the grant.

“It certainly helped in the decision to do it.”

Last year’s rebuilding of the Lougheed Highway hurt business and it’s only now starting to recover.

But parking, or lack of, is now also affecting business.

“There are not the same amount of parking stalls as there were before.”

Other grants under the facade improvement program for 2011:

• medical building at 22720 – 119th Ave. – $6,000 for pressure washing and painting the entire building. Total project: $27,700.

• pizza and chiropractor business at 22334 and 22336 Selkirk Ave. – $5,700 for new store front windows, doors and awning. Total project: $28,000.

• Maple Ridge Teachers Association, 11771 Fraser St., – $5,000 for new windows, signs, cleaning, painting and landscaping. Total project: $25,000.

•  Sherwood Manor, McIntosh Avenue and 223rd Street, $2,200 for new windows and frames. Total project: $8,715.