Abbotsford’s historic downtown has seen a resurgence in recent years. Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

More can be done to increase historic downtown’s vibrancy: report

Hard to find parking on Montrose, but not in other areas

With parking stalls at a premium in parts of Abbotsford’s historic downtown, some people are trying to bend the rules.

Reuben Koole, a senior planner for the city, told council recently that even when parking is tight in some areas – particularly along Montrose Avenue – there are usually spaces available nearby, even on busy Saturdays.

“There appears to be unused supply and there is some evidence that people are evading enforcement. In other words, they’re wiping chalk or doing a two-hour shuffle,” Koole told council, referring to the parking time limit across much of the area.

The comments on parking were part of a larger report on the historic downtown prepared as the city begins work on creating a neighbourhood plan for the area.

After a decline in the area in the 1980s, Poole said the historic downtown has seen a resurgence in more recent years. But the report presented to council suggests much more can be done to increase the area’s attractiveness and vibrancy.

The report credits the area for its “unique identity, strong branding and appealing venues that bring a unique and dedicated set of tenants and customers to the neighbourhood.”

But while the variety of businesses help draw shoppers to the area, the report says “the attempt to retain the character of Historic Downtown in newer developments has had mixed success.”

Some newer buildings try to mimic the look of older structures, but the report says that could actually draw attention from those legitimately historic storefronts.

And although the city hopes to encourage people to live near their place of employment, the report suggests that many residents of the neighbourhoods surrounding the historic downtown actually work elsewhere, with construction, health care and manufacturing the most common jobs among residents. In fact, 97 per cent of residents get to work in a vehicle, compared to the 93 per cent average for the city.

Following the research report, staff will look to solicit feedback from the public, including local businesses and residents. A new neighbourhood plan for the area will then be drafted.

The report says the planning process offers a chance to write “the next chapter in Historic Downtown’s story of being a cherished and vibrant neighbourhood in Abbotsford.”

Coun. Sandy Blue echoed that thought, saying “this is probably once in a generation that we get to do this exciting work.”

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