An artist rendering shows where the towers will be located on 200 Street. Submitted image

Highrise on the horizon in Willoughby

Township council grants third reading to the Maple Gardens 20-storey seniors housing project

Langley’s first highrise is one step closer to becoming a reality.

On Monday night (Feb. 5), Township council granted third reading to the Maple Gardens proposal for a 20-storey tower of seniors housing at 7743 and 7787 200 St.

The project was approved in a 6-3 vote, with an added condition that land be allocated for a future pedestrian overpass.

READ MORE: New 20-storey seniors housing tower not about money, says developer

As the first of seven buildings proposed for the 17-acre site, the tower will feature licensed care rooms, seniors housing, and apartments for adults aged 55 and over.

Before the vote, much of council’s discussion was on the merit of building a pedestrian overpass across 200 Street to link the project to the Langley Events Centre.

Coun. Kim Richter wanted to add a requirement that the developer build an overpass by the time the third phase of the project is complete. When that amendment failed, she brought back a different amendment to have land allocated for a future overpass instead.

Despite that passing by a 6-3 vote, by the end of the discussion, Richter said she still could not support third reading. She voted in opposition, along with Councillors Petrina Arnason and David Davis.

“The big thing that bothers me about the whole thing, and why I am voting no, is I don’t think 20-storeys are human scale building, and we won’t be building a human scale community with 20-storey towers,” Richter said. “And these will just be the first of the 20-and-higher-storey towers that will probably go into this corridor.”

Arnason said that — while “very innovative” — the project has shortfalls with parking, its potential impacts on Langley Memorial Hospital and affordability.

“We have lots of information in our housing action plan and I think that this is the opportunity that we have to look at the growing demographic of seniors, many of whom are on limited incomes,” she said. “And I see an opportunity from a developer, who seemed to be very passionate about the fact that it ‘wasn’t about the money,’ but there is no affordability component (included in the proposal).”

READ MORE: Langley Township’s first 20-storey tower passes hurdle at council

Meanwhile, Coun. Angie Quaale said the tower will be a great addition to Willoughby.

“I think this brings a lot of much needed service to our community, and I think that it provides seniors that are already here in our community with an opportunity to downsize and live in a part of our community where they still have access to the rest of their family,” Quaale said. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity to keep families whole. And I think the inter-generational aspect of this is really interesting, and I’m excited to see how this is going to unfold and to watch this development grow.”

Coun. Michelle Sparrow shared a personal experience with one of the developer’s earlier projects, Langley Gardens. Her grandmother had lived there, and “was very well looked after” while in their care.

“I think that that is something that we’re now going to be offering to even more of our residents and people from outside our community — to be able to come, and live, and age in place in a facility that will really feel like a home to them,” Sparrow said. “And I’m really excited to see it build out, and I think it is something that will be an asset to our community and to the seniors that live in our community.”

Mayor Jack Froese echoed those comments.

“I’m excited about this project, I think it’s about time Langley saw some towers,” Froese said.

“We talk about preserving our land base and it’s not getting any cheaper, as we just talked about not too long ago, with the cost of land in Willoughby — and I think it’s pushing $4 million an acre. Certainly, we want to preserve land and we want to put density in where density belongs, and it’s definitely along this corridor.”

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