Nadja Gehriger, Jeremy Towning and Franz Gehriger, with SwissReal Group, are ready to get going on huge condo project on Dewdney Trunk Road and 224th Street in downtown Maple Ridge. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Nadja Gehriger, Jeremy Towning and Franz Gehriger, with SwissReal Group, are ready to get going on huge condo project on Dewdney Trunk Road and 224th Street in downtown Maple Ridge. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

OUTLOOK: Downtown Maple Ridge towers on tap

Changing Maple Ridge’s skyline.

When a city is growing, but slowly running out of space to build out, the solution is to go up, making as much use of footprints as possible.

In otherwise, densify.

Maple Ridge council recently gave approval to the first phase of a multi-tower condo project that will change the look of Maple Ridge’s downtown.

Council approved a permit to allow construction of four buildings on Dewdney Trunk Road at the western side of the present Haney Plaza.

It’s part of a multi-phase, multi-year development stretching from the plaza to 224th street, and from Dewdney Trunk Road to Brown Avenue.

Overall, the entire project, when completed in about a decade, will be almost a square kilometre, with more than 800 condos, townhouses or apartments.

The intent is to start the first phase by spring of 2019. The development will have a major impact on the future of the downtown core, and not without some challenges, as residents see the potential loss of a small town atmosphere.

Urban planners define the elements of a successful transition and what makes for a positive city experience:

• creating a feeling of welcome and safety;

• friendliness and people on the streets day and evening;

• a sense of place, character, and identity that showcases the vales and ideals of the residents of the area;

• history around you as a reminder of the past and giving context to the present;

• the diversity of the people and ideas that make a community whole and multi-faceted;

• a walkable city, friendly to pedestrians;

• a magnet of entertainment and attractions;

• greenspace and easy access to nature and recreation.

Jeremy Towning is vice-president of the Swissreal Group and is involved in the planning and development of the project. He agrees that these design elements are major considerations and assures that the project considers all those factors.

“We are making this a destination area that will re-define the Maple Ridge. By setting the project back from 224th and Dewdney, we are creating an open space for parades, city functions and create a major hub for the centre of Maple Ridge,” he said.

“Another positive is job creation. We are looking at a million square feet of development and the construction will create thousands of jobs. This will be an environmentally conscious project. We are looking for a LEED silver rating, if not higher, which will make it the highest sustainable project in Maple Ridge.”

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings.

Towning is proud that the project is working toward LEED certification.

Green space must be a key consideration in urban planning if the health of a city and its people are both considered important. A new, broader view of parks has also recently been emerging. This new view focuses on how policymakers, practitioners, and the public can begin to think about parks as valuable contributors to larger urban policy objectives, such as job opportunities, youth development, public health, and community building.

“We are including a central open space with playgrounds in the centre of the project and making this area an attraction for the residents. There will be bike lanes and signage throughout the area. Incorporating this space with retail we are creating an organic, living, breathing area in the downtown core.”

As with any major change, there are negative voices. Some residents are concerned with the loss of the small town identity and the demise of the ‘mom and pop stores.’

Towning points out that there are be no big-box retailers planned for the development.

“Any of the rental retail units we have will be offered to local Maple Ridge residents first. It is important to us to make sure we have business that reflect the values of the municipality and with the people that are living there.”

With over 200,000 square feet of residential space in the first phase, Towning points out that this is a major tax input for the city.

Towning points out 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.’”