In November of 2020, the long-standing Alder Inn was knocked to the ground – its remnants cleared away after nearly eight decades of serving the city in different capacities.
Since then, some of the wood has been reclaimed and a controversial Christmas tree lit up downtown until after New Years, but the vacant lot has mostly stood empty for nearly half-a-year.
Plans to reignite construction for a “flexible outdoor plaza” appeared on the May 10th council meeting agenda – noted as a method to maximize the overall, future quality of downtown’s pedestrian realm, deemed a critical element underlying the Aldergrove core.
But Township Coun. Bob Long told The Star that it seemed to him that council attempted to kibosh the idea of any improvements to the property.
“Coun. Woodward and Richter led the charge to renege on the promises made when the Inn was demolished, in spite of council receiving public input supporting some kind of plaza instead of the gravelled bare lot that is there now,” Long explained.
He added that both Whitmarsh and Ferguson had “memory lapses” when it came to supporting this initiative, even though they did approve it over three separate reports last year.
Coun. Whitmarsh and Richter both voiced concerned over the cost of $250,000 going towards a project that could be potentially sold or re-zoned – with more time ultimately being requested to view options for both funding and planning.
READ MORE: A look back at the Alder Inn
“Staff explained that the budget envelope of $250k included $50k contingency and $50k for paving and that the costs could easily be reduced, but council was unmoved and the projected is now stalled,” Long noted.
Long noted to council that time should be of the essence in proceeding with improvement and revitalization of downtown Aldergrove.
It was also noted additional widening of Fraser Highway to four travel lanes and two parking lanes through downtown Aldergrove, will irreparably degrade its accessibility for pedestrians.
The suggestion to not proceed with additional road widening of Fraser Highway was put forth, with proceed to review and the alternative of considering other the parking lane options given instead.
“Fortunately I managed to successfully move a referral to staff to come back with more clarity and perhaps a reduced budget,” Long added.
An amount of $250,000 was included in the 2021 capital budget for the design and construction of the outdoor plaza for Council’s consideration of approval.
Coun. Eric Woodward told The Star he wanted to see council focus on the long-term, not short term fixes – only to be removed in the short-term.
“Seeing the plan now, it makes no sense at all, as it is. Let try and for development before we spend this money, for an improved space that really can’t be used during the pandemic anyway,” Woodward added.
He also applauded the fact that most of Council made it very clear that rezoning and development of the site should be and is our first priority, at least for most of us.
“Let’s get on with it,” Woodward said.
The interim works are envisaged to consist of site servicing, surface improvements, decorative fencing, landscaping, public art opportunities, modular planters, furnishings and features that can be used in a variety of circumstances and locations throughout the Township, with space allocated for community uses and special events.
In a concept plan Long shared with The Star, sculptural seating, string lights, bike storage, and even the idea of food trucks are suggested.
“We should be thinking bigger for the core of downtown Aldergrove, making revitalization a fast-track priority,” Woodward said. “Others have had 20 years to advocate for private investment in Aldergrove, and I think the results speak loud and clear for themselves.”
To Long’s response, he implored the councilor and the Township to “give new voices a chance to make it happen, not attack them in the media.”
After the inn, which housed a bar, a liquor store, hotel rooms, and Langley’s last strip club, shut it’s doors in June of 2019, the municipality spent $5.4-million to purchase the hotel (at 27214 Fraser Hwy.) as well as two neighbouring lots.
The COVID-19 pandemic slowed immediate plans for toppling the structure, but council simultaneously took public input on what should take the Alder Inn’s place – suggesting community gardens, an overflow parking for the Aldergrove Credit Union Community Centre, or a small-scale urban plaza similar to McBurney Plaza in Langley City.
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