A village vision for Albion

A concept for a shopping village in Albion.

A concept for a shopping village in Albion.

Editor, The News:

Re: Council tweaks shopping plans (The News, Feb. 16).

Here is a community-based concept for shopping west of 105th Avenue in Albion.

This concept is the result of hours of consultation with the public, including staff and students that I work with in Burnaby, as well as the Maple Ridge residents who I visited, taking the study to people’s doorsteps. 

The idea was to incorporate elements that people want the most for a mall.

Almost universally, people wanted a village shopping experience, often evoking their experiences at Whistler.

I am a layperson from Albion, with no background in architecture, drafting, nor engineering.  Clearly, I am, however, an enthusiastic proponent of shopping.

Front and centre to the scheme are the generous areas dedicated to pedestrian-only traffic, as denoted by the grid pattern on the drawing.  Predominantly, shops face inwards into this welcoming space, inviting shoppers to casually work their way through the stores, and perhaps linger there for the afternoon, even dine there.

On a more practical note, the mall is surrounded by parking, designated “P”.  Parking and access also penetrate deep into the communal spaces, making quick stops possible virtually anywhere on site.  Anchor stores are seen top right and far left, which I am told are necessary for the project to be economically viable.  Perhaps, one could house a unique grocery store, like Thrifty Foods; the other could shelter HomeSense.  Certainly, this would lend itself nicely to the boutique stores that seem to be a popular topic of discussion.

I envision the buildings to be one to two stories tall – tall enough for that village feel, low enough to allow plenty of light. 

The second story could house offices or restaurants.  The buildings would presumably be craftsman style, again, to borrow on the theme of Whistler, but would be broad enough to fit outside that context and allow an infusion of local character.

The shops would need generous overhangs to shelter keen visitors, no matter the weather.  I was surprised how frequently participants referenced the need for overhangs.

Time and time again, people have stressed that shopping in the flats ought to take on significance going beyond mere economics to serving a broader community purpose.  This plan begins to address this mandate with large open communal spaces, including a courtyard capable of handling hundreds of people and an offset stage suitable for whatever purposes people wanted it for – possibly concerts, open theatre, open markets.  Imagine the possibilities of a village square for Christmas. 

What do others envision?

The main purpose of this project was to create a cohesive design that managed to avoid the static arrangement of elements that we so often see in the mall concepts of today and to create something that reflects our values and lifestyle.

So often naysayers project worst case scenarios into the vacuum or void of uncertainty.  This project was about what people might actually want, moving ahead.

It’s been fun, but it is just a rough concept. Council will be opening up the narrowed scenarios to the public, and I am hoping that everyone will attend the public meetings and get involved as much as possible.

James Craig Ruthven

 Maple Ridge