Norm’s Two Cents on Housing and the Ladner Village Area Plan Changes
After centuries of use by our local First Nations communities, the plot of land along the banks of the Fraser River that became known as Ladner began to take shape as a fishing and farming village. Early maps drawn up of the settlement outlined the basic grid and street layout that is still discernable in the Village today. Narrow parcels of land were plotted out in close proximity to each other in the village core (where the ‘old’ municipal town hall would later be built) while the further out from the village core you went, the wider the parcels became as their value dropped. The most prized lots for shops and homes were close to the fishing docks and the supply stores that popped up along Delta St. The early clapboard buildings were slowly upgraded with finer buildings of stone, brick, and better quality woods and the normal development of the village began to follow a familiar pattern. The buildings which were first built by speculators wondering if Ladner Village might turn into something were made of lesser-quality materials and built to be one-storey structures that didn’t require much to get off the ground. However, as confidence in the longevity of Ladner Village began to increase, the local landowners could see that it was worth investing more of their cash in the buildings on the main street in town and subsequently began to see finer structures being constructed. This introduced two-storey buildings and if local demand had been robust enough the next phase would have seen the construction of taller structures on these narrow lots. One need only look at the Masonic Lodge on Delta St to see the type of building that served as a symbol of optimism that Ladner was going to stick around and be a happening place.
To make a long story short, the introduction of the automobile into society began to transform the speed of movement and scale of development. Now living at a distance from the town centre was seen as a good to be desired and not a hassle to be overcome. Hence, the pattern of suburban development commonly referred to as ‘sprawl’ came to define much of what was built in our region and Ladner was no exception. Auto-oriented suburbs were built and people-oriented town centres were neglected.
If a neighbourhood struggles or enters into decline, confidence dries up and landowners do not invest their capital in repairs and upgrades of their buildings. This makes sense. You don’t want to pour money into a depreciating asset. Thus, the Ladner Village of a few decades ago was marked by struggling properties and declining prospects.
Things began to change when the whole region began to be marked by a resurgence of confidence that this whole area would become more and more valuable and powerful as a place of industry and commerce. New shops decided to open up in Ladner and people began to rethink their housing choices and are now more interested in living in urban environments like the Village. People-oriented activities like farmers’ markets (gotta be on foot to experience it!) and village festivals showed that there was a comfort and familiarity to the human-scaled streetscape of the Village – a place of variety and colour and not the blandness of the auto-oriented strip mall or the sterility of the big box supercenters.
Right now, confidence in the future of Ladner Village is growing again and there’s a renewed desire to invest in new buildings and to reinvest in older ones (ex. Stokes Pharmacy at the corner of Elliott St and Arthur Drive). That confidence unlocks currency. That confidence that Ladner Village is a great place to live and invest is a big reason why the changes to the Ladner Village area plan are necessary. If we don’t allow the neglected lots and dilapidated properties to be turned into new sources of vibrant activity and residences for a mix of people, we will see one of two outcomes: a return to stagnation (unlikely, given the regional demand for housing in walkable neighbourhoods) or an increase in prices due to scarcity. If we do allow for new construction of well-sited, pedestrian-oriented buildings in a complete 15-minute community, we will see more homes for more young people who up-size into a great walkable neighbourhood, older folks who downsize to a more complete neighbourhood, or newcomers who relocate to make Delta their new home community. Any which way, we all benefit!
We want our residential neighbourhoods and town centres to flourish. Let’s update our plans to reflect that (in case it hasn’t been pointed out enough) we are in the midst of a housing scarcity predicament that is affecting all of us. A town centre is a great place to demonstrate that we are serious about addressing this predicament and finding ways to improve the outcomes for all.
Agree? Disagree? See you next Thursday night and we shall discuss.