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Council approves downtown development concept for Young and Yale lands September 18, 2012

Chilliwack Downtown Plan

Chilliwack, British Columbia – Chilliwack City Council has voted to approve a development concept that would see new residential, commercial and park space constructed on a downtown block east of Young Road.

"This is one of the outcomes of our 2010 Downtown Land Use Plan and the more recent Task Force process on downtown improvement," said Mayor Sharon Gaetz. "Over time, we're already seeing new investment and the upgrading of properties in the downtown area. This Young and Yale development concept is intended to accelerate the trend towards positive change."

Council voted to continue assembling land on a portion of the block bounded by Young Road, Yale Road and Princess Avenue to create a single 1.5-hectare property.  The City already owns ten lots on the block.  The concept, developed by a municipal advisory committee and a team of planning consultants, combines commercial and residential uses in three mid-rise buildings located around an urban park. The concept also provides for street and sidewalk improvements.

"Through our public planning process, residents approved a vision of downtown Chilliwack as an attractive, vibrant, safe neighbourhood where people can walk to shopping and recreation," said the Mayor.  "To support that vision, it makes sense to build more residential units downtown, and design them for young working people, couples and seniors."

"By assembling a property of this size, we're making the opportunity to come to Downtown Chilliwack more attractive for private developers," she said.  "And we're making space for a development that will drive significant positive change."

Mayor Gaetz said there will be a public process to select a developer, Council will set terms of reference for development, and development will be expected to meet existing design guidelines.

For more information on the downtown plan visit: www.chilliwackdowntownplan.ca.

BACKGROUNDER: PROPOSED YOUNG AND YALE REDEVELOPMENT

In 2010, following a new municipal Downtown Land Use and Development Plan, the City created the Downtown Core Task Force to consider options for downtown redevelopment. The 2010 Plan integrated recommendations from the 2007 Downtown Strategic Plan. Each of these plans was the result of extensive citizen engagement.

The task force reported in February 2012. It noted the vision for downtown Chilliwack set out in the 2010 Land Use and Development Plan: "… safe, inclusive, socially diverse and supported by a diverse range of housing options that embrace a high quality and attractive public realm."

A key element in the current Task Force report is its support for new multi-family housing in downtown Chilliwack, in part to improve demand for retail services.  Many ingredients for this transition to a more residential focus are already in place, including the fact that new residents will have nearby access to health services, recreation and the city's public library.  Downtown redevelopment can be further supported by the arrival of new commercial and professional offices, serving the growing downtown-area population and having access to a growing pool of potential employees living nearby.

Among other proposals, the Task Force recommended that the City should:

  • Take a "minimum parcel size" approach to new development to encourage development on a large scale;
  • Increase its budget for streetscape and aesthetic improvements;
  • Implement cycling, parking and transit improvements;
  • Acquire land in a key block of the downtown core, demolish buildings, and make the site development ready;
  • Prepare a site development plan and marketing strategy for the assembled land;
  • Work with building owners and operators across the downtown to encourage compliance with property standards bylaws, and advocate for provincial legislation to deal more effectively with derelict property owners; and
  • Support policies that would encourage more activities and events in the downtown.

To see the full list and current status of recommendations: http://chilliwackdowntownplan.ca/recommendations/
 
The City, in response, struck a Downtown Plan Implementation Committee (DPIC) in order to implement the Task Force recommendations over a five-year period from 2012 through 2016. The committee includes:

  • Barb Kemp, Chilliwack Business Improvement Association
  • Mark Andersen, Chamber of Commerce
  • Pat Clark, former City Councilor
  • Kelly Lerigny, Chair-Real Estate Foundation
  • Eric Van Maren, development community
  • Councilor Jason Lum, Vice-Chair
  • Councilor Ken Huttema, Chair

As part of its work, the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee met with urban planning consultants to consider the best options for downtown land assembly and redevelopment as recommended by the Task Force. 

On September 18, 2012 Council voted unanimously to adopt a redevelopment concept put forward by DPIC for most of the block bounded by Young Road, Yale Road and Princess Avenue.  The City already owns ten properties on the block. The rest of the block, except for three properties at the eastern end, are to be acquired by the City. Proposals will then be invited for the development of a new complex to include mixed-use residential and commercial space arranged around an urban park. 

The City will acquire these properties over time and pay fair market value for them. This is a long term initiative and nearby businesses are open.

Implementation of other strategies recommended in the Task Force report is underway, including support for downtown events and adoption of a budget for streetscape improvements.  This process will continue at least through 2016; implementation of recommendations will depend partly on market conditions and the pace of redevelopment on private lands.

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