Abbotsford council signals approval of new downtown building, but ADBA says design is wrong

Public will have a chance to comment on proposal for corner of Gladys Avenue and George Ferguson Way

The public will get a chance to comment on Monday on a mixed-use building at a prominent intersection that failed to receive the backing of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA).

A developer wants to build a four-storey structure at the corner of Gladys Avenue and George Ferguson Way. The first floor would have commercial storefronts, while the top three-storeys would house 21 residential units.

Although council gave preliminary approval to the project in April after staff recommended they do so, the public will get the chance to comment on the proposal on Monday, and the developer must still figure out how to work around a nearby tree that a neighbour won’t allow be removed.

The ADBA had raised concerns about the design of the building in an email sent to the city in January.

“The building does not support the Main Street retail character that the Neighbourhood Plan is trying to achieve,” ADBA executive director wrote in a letter to the city’s planninng department referring to the recently adopted Historic Downtown Neighbourhood Plan. “More attention should be given to this site as it is a high visibility corner at the edge of Historic Downtown. This site is the ‘gateway’ coming from the east into Historical Downtown Abbotsford. The style and details should therefore reflect similar elements required in the core as a transition piece between neighbourhoods.”

The letter says the building could and should be better and more ambitious architecturally with colours and materials supported in the neighbourhood plan.

McEwan writes that the building is important because it could help “extend the enjoyable walkability and aesthetically pleasing experience that has been the neighbourhood plan’s objective.”

City staff had come to a different conclusion.

“The proposed developments density, scale and built form are well suited to the Urban Centre designation,” a report said, calling the resulting building a “high quality development.”

There are also unresolved issues related to a tree on a neighbouring property. An arbourist report says a Douglas fir to the development’s east should be removed in order to allow for construction to proceed. But the owners of the property on which that tree sits have told the developer and the city that they won’t provide permission for the tree to be chopped down.

In order to secure a development permit, the city says that the builder must either find a way to retain the tree, or convince the property owner to allow it to be removed. The owner has suggested the removal of a pair of parking spots might allow for the retention of the tree.

A final public comment period will take place at Monday’s 7 p.m. meeting of council.

RELATED: Protecting the past while planning for the future in Abbotsford’s historic downtown

RELATED: New plans for Abbotsford’s commercial areas approved and applauded


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