Parking is at the forefront of Aldergrove minds this month, especially as Langley Township council decides the fate of Alder Inn and adjacent lots.
While the Township asks the community whether the downtown building should be preserved or demolished – a nearby charity operation is asking for more parking.
“If we could keep this parking available to the public, I think everyone would benefit,” said executive director, Cheryl Young, of Fibromyalgia Wellspring Foundation, which operates a thrift store at 2978 272nd St.
“The [former] owner of the Alder Inn put up concrete barriers to stop us from parking here,” Young explained.
After moving from Langley City into the 3,100-square-foot Aldergrove unit in 2017, parking was blocked off on north and east sides of the store within a year.
“We didn’t know that when we rented this place that we did not have any spaces,” she admitted. As it turned out, neither “did our landlord.”
The barricades took an immediate toll on the charity operation, Young stressed, which serves as the foundation’s main source of revenue.
“Our sales went down 29 per cent as soon as barricades were up,” Young said, figuring it was because it made parking difficult for a majority of customers, many of whom are seniors.
Customers who parked in the lot beside the store and walked over to the thrift shop were at risk of having their vehicles towed.
As Young worked with a team of volunteers to sort and sell donations taken in through the unit’s back doors – “we were told that even the space in front of our back doors wasn’t ours,” she said.
It posed a problem for the non-profit volunteers, most whom are older adults or have physical disabilities.
“Our people have trouble walking. They have trouble making it up those three back stairs,” Young said.
Though she has no official stance on what should happen to the Alder Inn, the non-profit organization has no doubt benefited from the Township’s acquisition of it.
As soon as the building and sites were purchased by the municipality for $5.4-million last June – the cement barriers were removed.
“We managed to get our sales back up one per cent by the end of 2018,” Young said, “And back to ‘normal’ before COVID-19 hit.”
Customers are now able park beside the thrift store in the northern lot, just a short distance from its front entrance on 272nd Street.
Their landlord even painted yellow markings on the cement behind the store to indicate its donation drop-off area.
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But Young and husband Nigel Thom – who manages the day-to-day operations of the thrift store – now worry the same thing could happen, depending on what the Township decides for the Alder Inn.
What Township staff have recommended happen to the building, if demolished, is the construction of five-storey mixed-use buildings with residential units above, commercial space on the bottom floor, and underground parking below in levels below.
After demolition, the three properties could accommodate up to 120 parking stalls to serve as overflow parking for the Aldergrove Credit Union Community Centre during summer months, said Jason Chu, Township community/policy planning manager.
“This is Aldergrove’s parking,” Young said, hopeful that a garden or greenspace of some sort will also occupy one of the lots downtown.
“It’s not just about our thrift shop – it is that we have a pool that is gorgeous down the street with not enough parking.”
Founded in 2006, the Fibromyalgia Wellspring Foundation is a registered Canadian charity.
For more information about the organization, call 778-278-3697.