Abbotsford’s plan for its newly defined city centre will aim to accommodate another 10,000 people in the area over the next 24 years in order to transform the corridor along South Fraser Way and its malls into a more-vibrant core.
Council heard Monday about the background research that will underpin the creation of a neighbourhood plan for what last year’s Official Community Plan defined as Abbotsford’s new city centre. That plan envisions a centre based around South Fraser Way and ranging roughly from Parkview Street in the west, Ware Street in the east, Peardonville in the south and Geroge Ferguson Way in the north.
Planner Patrick Oystryk told council that research shows the area has enough commercial space to absorb many more new residents as it grows and densifies over the coming years. As new residents move to the area, it’s hoped they will turn it into a more lively place, with better transit and “stickier” public spaces.
The city centre boasts the most jobs of any neighbourhood in Abbotsford, but with the bulk of residents currently living on the outskirts of the area, 92 per cent of residents drive to work – in line with statistics that make the Abbotsford-Mission Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) the most car-dependant CMA in Canada. The neighbourhood plan would aim to change that by increasing the proximity of residents to their jobs and breaking up large blocks that discourage walking and biking.
The area has many assets it can draw on, Oystryk noted.
“In terms of parks and cultural amenties, this is an area that is very rich,” he said. The neighbourhood plan, he said, would work to emphasize and increase connections between the Clearbrook Library, The Reach, the Gur Sikh Temple and Thunderbird Plaza. Coun. Ross Siemens noted that Thunderbird Plaza, in particular, could be a key central gathering point, with the development of La Galleria and the planned new courthouse nearby.
A research report created by staff suggests the area could become a regional draw, if a particular identity is developed. The plans points to a well-used 13-kilometre trail in Indianapolis that circles the downtown, linking cultural destinations with parks and other attractions as one example of how to foster a community’s character
With the report predicting 400 hotel rooms could be needed by 2041, Coun. Sandy Blue noted a large hotel and conference centre in the area could further support the neighbourhood’s transformation.
Surprising statistics also suggest that traffic on South Fraser Way may have decreased in recent years. Although there may be issues with devices used to count cars, the report speculated that more drivers may also be using East-West thoroughfares like Marshall and Maclure roads, which have seen traffic increases.
A key component of the plan is the redesign of South Fraser Way. The report suggests the road could retain its current width, but with trees, bike and bus lanes added.
Other ideas included in the report include:
n Supporting the supply of rental housing
n Attracting jobs near new fibre optic networks
n Reduce surface parking lots
n Locate parks and community amenities near high-density neighbourhoods
n Rethink the Bourquin bus exchange
n Encourage a transit system that is “frequent, direct and reliable”
n Identify locations for new parks
n Design retail streets with on-street parking and ample pedestrian space
n Incorporate public art in frequented areas