A boarded-up old mall in downtown Aldergrove has become an election issue in the upcoming Oct. 20 municipal vote in Langley Township.
Five days after council candidate Eric Woodward posted a photo of himself on his Facebook page, standing in the Aldergrove Mall parking lot, incumbent councillor Bob Long posted a letter on Facebook from the mall’s owners, the Janda Group, endorsing the current council members.
In his Sept. 19 Facebook post, Woodward’s comment that, “It’s time for a real plan for private investment into Aldergrove,” had garnered some 172 likes and several comments.
In response to Billie Reid, who said, “Demolish old Mall… build new one… clean up Aldergrove,” Woodward had responded, “Billie, this is exactly how it was in Fort Langley 15 years ago. It can be turned around.”
In the undated letter from the Janda Group, posted by Coun. Long on his Facebook page on Sept. 23, spokesman Sonny Janda wrote that “this letter (is) our show of support for the continued support of our project by members of staff, council and our current mayor. You, all, have been committed to our cause… and diligent alongside our team in working through issues we have encountered.”
A “draft” proposal for redevelopment of the site at 3100 272nd Street was also posted by Coun. Long, showing three phases of redevelopment starting at the west side along 272nd Street.
Phase one shows three new buildings, with buildings A and B having commercial main floors with a maximum of three floors of residential use above while a smaller building C would be only one story of commercial use.
In phase two, the existing vacant mall’s footprint would be replaced with building D, consisting of a commercial main floor with three residential floors above it. The existing building which houses the Dollarama store and professional offices above would be leveled to make room for building E, housing commercial on the ground floor and three levels of residential above it along with a new roadway connecting 272nd Street with Fraser Highway at 273rd Street running through the centre of the new buildings. The existing lane would be retained as well.
Phase two also includes an “age-friendly amenity space” in roughly the location of the current Dollarama parking lot.
In phase three, the former Elks Hall on Fraser Highway would be torn down to make way for direct connection to 273rd Street at the 273rd Street traffic light. The existing road and hall parking lot would be replaced by a three-story mixed use building for retail, with residential above.
The proposal also reserves the land at the corner of 272nd Street and 32nd Avenue for a future institutional care home development.
In his letter, Janda wrote that since the Janda Group purchase the property ten years ago, “… this has been our most challenging development to date. Restrictions on build-out due to existing tenancies (Extra Foods), riparian area regulation changes and our changing socio-economic market has created an uphill battle for us.”
Janda wrote, “We are proud to say that we are in the final throws (sic) of an application submission and with the collaboration of the Township of Langley this submission has matured to a more cohesive and viable development reality.”
Janda concluded the letter with the statement that, “Finally, we’d like to take this opportunity to wish all members of Council and Mayor, up for re-election, the very best of luck. It would be great to see the personalities who have supported us be a part of our future development and realize our vision together.”
The letter and announcement have sparked a flurry of comments on social media, both pro and con.
Several commenters have said they are grateful that something is being done with the derelict property.
Council candidate Michael Pratt noted that, “With affordable rental units you give young people who are looking to move into their first home a better chance of finding something affordable, you give low-income seniors another option since taking care of single family homes can be difficult and expensive, and those are just two of the many groups of people who benefit from having those types of units.”
For his part, former mayor Rick Green posted on his “Langley Watchdog” blog that “Isn’t that interesting, on the eve of the election we get an announcement on the development of the Mall with an accompanying letter patting each other on the back for a second rate development plan that just doesn’t cut it.”