A long-term redesign of Essendene Avenue is envisioned in the draft neighbourhood plan for Abbotsford’s historic downtown. (City of Abbotsford image)

A long-term redesign of Essendene Avenue is envisioned in the draft neighbourhood plan for Abbotsford’s historic downtown. (City of Abbotsford image)

Essendene redesign and building cap height included in historic downtown plan

Planners want Abbotsford’s historic core to keep ‘small town’ feel, with bigger buildings on edges

A new plan for Abbotsford’s historic downtown aims to limit building size in the centre of the neighbourhood while boosting density in the area immediately around the core blocks.

The draft of the new plan, which was presented to council last week, would cap building heights at three storeys in the four blocks immediately surrounding the Montrose/Essendene intersection, in the heart of the neighbourhood.

Council had seen a preview of the plan several months ago, and while it has been tweaked, the essential elements remain.

Over the next three decades, the plan could see the population of the neighbourhood doubling, to around 22,000 people, which would increase the commercial vibrancy of the area.

But whereas Abbotsford’s new city centre plan is focused on transforming an area into something mostly unrecognizable from the present, a large portion of the historic downtown plan is centred on maintaining the current look and feel of the neighbourhood.

The plan would require that the facades of certain historic buildings be preserved or recreated during any future development, and development guidelines mandate building materials and style that would maintain a “historic main street character.”

It also envisions a reconfigured Essendene Avenue, with two travel lanes instead of four, a centre turn lane, and broader sidewalks.The aim would be to convert the road into another “anchor destination shopping street” like that of Montrose.

The cap on heights also remains in conflict with a recent proposal to build a six-storey mixed-use building on the site of the Fraser Valley Inn.

Surrounding the core blocks, the plan would promote denser mixed-use buildings three to six storeys tall. Styles could be more modern, but would also include historic influences.

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Coun. Ross Siemens, whose family has operated Hub Motor Service on Essendene for decades, said the plan has been a long time in the making.

“My hair has gone grey waiting for this to happen,” he joked.

He said concerns about parking and traffic are real, but a sign of progress and success.

“I could remember when we could shoot a cannon down there and not hit a car.”

He added that changes to Essendene are part of a long-term vision, and will not happen “overnight.”

The plan will go off for a further round of consultation before returning to council for final approval in the spring.


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

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