Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Morgan Crossing Lifestyle Centre: A Better Way To Develop

What is new in commercial / residential development in BC?  What is a lifestyle centre?  Perhaps the answer is as close as South Surrey's Morgan Crossing lifestyle centre. I take a walk with Bill Roberts a member of the creative team and leave wishing that all city councils and band elders could come here and have a look.  This post will be of interest to people interested in community planning and the rest of us would just like development to look and live better.

From a Chilliwack BC real estate perspective I was curious what a density mix of commercial/residential might look like considering Chilliwack's Downtown Land Use and Development Plans seems to be heading in this direction.  Plans and artist renderings are never as good as seeing the real thing.  

Also I wondered how the 54 acres comprising Chilliwack's Eagle Landing  power centre (where the Walmart is being built) currently underway just off the Evans Road in Chilliwack, BC and discussed in a previous posting stacked up against Morgan Crossing.

I met Bill Roberts, Vice President Shopping Centres, Maple Leaf Property Management, a number of years ago when the award winning Village at Park Royal was just opening as Canada's first lifestyle centre on land owned by the Squamish Indian band.  In that design a pedestrian friendly "Main Street" promenade is lined with retail shops like a village near the seashore.. Since that introduction I have viewed Bill Roberts and Andrew Feola of F+A Architects as pretty much representing the leading creative edge in BC for commercial life centre development.  People, our councils should be talking to, with actual "on the ground" experience.

As I drive past endless ugly strip malls I ask myself isn't there a better way to develop?

That sets the stage, I arrived a few minutes early and so started snapping off a few pictures of the project from a distance.  Three differences just jump out the main one being the attractive residences above the shops, an entry that takes you off a main artery and into a much quieter almost town centre environment and a successful open parking solution to what must have been a taunting problem Hydro Transmission Lines. 

These 28 acres were slated to be cut up in a piece meal manner and we know what sort of jumbled up mess that type of development leads to - consider Vedder Road or the Fraser Highway.
The Jumble of Vedder Road, Chilliwack BC
Instead, Morgan Crossing is home to 400,000 square feet of commercial space and 497 residential units which someday will house nearly a 1,000 people. The site is shown below with major anchors London Drugs, Golf Town and a keyhole walkway giving entry to a huge 39,000 square foot Steve Nash Sports Club in the yellow area.  A frame built residential apartment complex is above.
Morgan Crossing Layout

Water Feature a Steve Nash Sports Club

Thrifty foods in the forest green area with Winners in blue nearby.  To the far end of the street is Best Buy in lime green. Placing anchors at opposing ends of the development encourages foot traffic throughout. The buildings in the middle row are wrapped with continuous retail on all sides to enhance the shopping experience.  By time the official grand opening takes place fashion retailers Roots, The Gap and Banana Republic will have opened their spots.

Morgan Creek like the Village at Park Royal draws inspiration from the Steveston Fishing Village south of Vancouver and is reflected in a number of design elements like the metal exterior siding, water features and outlooks.  Everywhere young trees are planted and the sidewalks are wide for causal shopping and strolling.

Thrifty Foods Sidewalk Display
Places to Meet or Rest

Building Textures add interest

The big difference between Morgan Crossing and other developments is the addition of residences above the retail shopping areas.  With a lot of discussion surrounding the density of our older downtown cores it was reassuring to see how attractive the results could be. All parking for the residences, 1 1/2 stalls per unit, is underground.

How does Morgan Crossing stack up against Chilliwack's Eagle Landing?   Well Morgan Crossing is a lot denser than the Eagle Landing development. Eagle Landing has no residences and the commercial space takes approximately 40% more land per acre than Morgan Crossing. Draw your own conclusions.

If you enjoyed reading this article, why not Subscribe to be notified of the next one? Stephen Mullock is a Chilliwack real estate associate broker with 29 years of experience. He can be reached at Royal LePage Wheeler Cheam Realty, telephone 604-792-0077.

All pictures and content are copyright June 15, 2010 to Stephen Mullock RI.

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