A proposed waterfront development for Port Haney could transform Maple Ridge’s downtown, connecting it to the Fraser River.
Maple Ridge council was presented a proposal Monday to develop the 600-metre stretch of waterfront south of the Haney Bypass, where the Northview Enterprises log sort has operated for the past 40 years.
The development would feature mixed-use residential and commercial buildings, all facing the Fraser River, with 4.5 acres of park space. The concept includes three apartment blocks, a row of townhouses, an office building, and ground floor commercial retail.
The site would be flanked by a wooden boardwalk connecting to the Port Haney West Coast Express station to the west, and to Kanaka Creek Regional Park to the east.
“It would be totally pedestrian-oriented,” said Maple Ridge’s development manager Charles Goddard, including a walkway. “It would be like our own Coal Harbour.”
The concept for the development, like Coal Harbour, includes both a marina and a float plane terminal, which would jut out into the Fraser River.
The property is owned by Canadian Overseas Group, which also operates the Blue Mountain woodlot, and the Andersen Pacific Forest Products sawmill in Ruskin.
Ron Andersen, president of Canadian Overseas Group, said the company plans to relocate its log sort operation, likely elsewhere in Maple Ridge, in order to free up the Port Haney waterfront for development.
“The District has been poking us for years to do something different [with the property],” said Andersen. “They made it clear they’d like to see the waterfront changed … and going against those wishes is not in the best interest of the community.
“It’s a unique piece of property, and it’s got a lot of potential.”
Andersen said the company hasn’t decided whether to develop the site itself or offer it up to a developer.
“I’m not a developer,” said Andersen. “I work in the forest industry.”
The property has its challenges, he noted, namely its narrow width and close proximity to the Canadian Pacific rail line.
However, he said the strong support for the project shown by the District of Maple Ridge will make the property easier to market, should the company decide to sell to a developer.
The artist’s concept presented to council on Monday will likely be changed during the development process.
“It’s a all conceptual,” said Andersen. “We don’t really know what it’s going to look like when it’s all finished.”
While Andersen said the project doesn’t have a timeline yet, Maple Ridge public works general manager Frank Quinn said a project the size of the waterfront proposal would likely take six to seven years before it is completed.
Goddard said he expects the application for rezoning to come within the next six months.
Council was unanimous in its praise for the project on Monday.
“The future is here,” said Mayor Ernie Daykin. “I know its got a ways to go, but it’s taking Haney back to the water and the potential is huge. In 10 years there will be a huge difference in our downtown.
“It’s Maple Ridge’s time.”
Record year for Maple Ridge development
This year is shaping up to be a record one for development for the District of Maple Ridge.
So far this year, district staff have received more than 70 applications for development. Should that pace continue, it would make 2012 the busiest year on record for the district’s planning department, according Charles Goddard, development manager for the District.
“Considering the recession we are in, we are doing very well,” said Chief Administrative Officer Jim Rule.
A total of 10 concrete towers are planned for downtown Maple Ridge including five residential towers at the corner of Dewdney Trunk and 224th Street, and a three-tower proposal at the corner of 227th and Dewdney Trunk Road. That development will have a total of 220 residential units on the property where the Paliotti’s restaurant now stands.
On McIntosh Avenue, a 53-unit development is planned with ground floor commercial, in between 223rd and 224th Streets.
“It’s a very dense, European street-faced development,” said Goddard.
Across from the newly opened Thrifty Foods, a pair of low-rise residential apartments with ground floor commercial are planned, with a construction cost of more than $10 million.
In all, more than 3,000 residential units are currently in the works for downtown Maple Ridge.
“Some of these sites have been vacant for more than 50 years,” said Frank Quinn, general manager of public works. “If someone comes to us with a proposal and it makes sense, we’re going to work with them to make it happen.”
Much of the growth has been centred in downtown Maple Ridge, thanks to the district’s Town Centre Investment Incentive program, which provides fast-tracked approval for development projects downtown, a municipal property tax exemption for three years, discounts on building permits, and money for property owners to renovate their building’s facade.
Coun. Mike Morden praised previous councils for laying the groundwork for the current construction boom by adopting “smart growth” strategies to revitalize the downtown.
“Wether it’s the bridges, the affordability, the incentive program, or just the ease of working out here … people are taking notice,” said Maple Ridge mayor Ernie Daykin.