News Views: Clearing the way

The District of Maple Ridge is clearing the way to further redevelop the downtown core, with its own wallet.

The district has just purchased 13 rental houses and a vacant lot between Haney Place and Valley Fair malls from a numbered company for more than $3 million.

The district plans to demolished them, clear the lots and sell that land to another developer.

First it will help relocate the tenants.

The previous developer and the district couldn’t agree on a vision for the area, so the properties sat there, collecting rent, but hindering growth downtown.

The district has been pushing ahead with downtown renovations, as we’ve seen with the road improvements this past year, and recently approved a bundle of incentives to redevelop and build in the core.

When the properties were put up for sale, the district decided it couldn’t wait any longer and bought them, the idea to sell the downtown improvements and push its incentive program. Essentially, it took the first, bold step, to demonstrate its commitment to revitalizing the downtown.

We hope it works. Plans for other downtown properties, including a high-rise apartment and a new gaming facility, were put on hold during the recent recession.

But there are signs that is changing, in Maple Ridge, at least. The sale and pending redevelopment of Northumberland Court is one. The two new bridges are also supposed to help.

The 14 properties are zoned in the official community plan for commercial and high-density development – some mid-sized apartments and small retail stores. That is the plan.

Sounds desirable enough, within walking distance to the Haney bus loop and two major shopping centres, one a possible target for major renovations and new anchor tenants.

But the district still needs to find a taker.

The redevelopment of the downtown has been a painfully slow process. Land assembly was a major hurdle.

The district has cleared at least one.

– The News