News Views: Downtown’s brighter

Arrival of big-box Walmart an urban planner's dream

Word that Walmart is moving to downtown Maple Ridge could be met with groans from many, quick to criticize the big-box business on a variety of issues.

From another perspective, the arrival of the retail giant is a victory for the downtown.

Just a few years ago, the retailer could have been among those opening in a new mall in Albion flats, near the arena complex on 105th Avenue.

Previous councils had tried desperately to develop Albion flats and it was only after a new council was elected in November that a possible land swap with the city and a developer was abandoned. It was a fortunate turn of events that’s now a win-win for all.

Target’s departure this year left vacant a bright, retail space in one of the main malls in the downtown. With Albion flats no longer an option, Walmart opted for the no-brainer – a state-of-the-art space in a downtown that’s benefited from intensive municipal effort for the last decade.

Planners and politicians, often contradictorily so, have pushed the creation of a vibrant, urban downtown Maple Ridge and spent millions doing so in the belief that high-population density development works better for all by creating healthier places and lower taxes.

For now, the costlier option of more traffic, wider roads and pricey infrastructure in Albion is off the table. Growth in that area will happen, but in a more rational way, simultaneously with the arrival of new sports facilities and more industry.

Walmart’s arrival downtown, and the draw that promises, bolsters the dream of a ‘happening place’, as city planning has long championed. Welcome Walmart, your arrival has been long awaited.       – The News


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