Top Stories of 2012: City takes aggressive steps to speed up downtown renewal

The long held dream of downtown revitalization for Chilliwack was back in the news spotlight for 2012.

The long held dream of downtown revitalization for Chilliwack was back in the news spotlight for 2012.

City officials decided it’s too long to wait the 30 years or so that the consultants say it will take to see any significant redevelopment in the downtown core, so they moved ahead with a 20-point plan to get things going quicker.

It all hinges on tricks like land assembly, revitalization incentives, marketing, greening, taking care of social issues and unsightly premises. But the actual implementation is still expected to be incremental, and dictated by market forces.

Certain measures are aimed at effectively hastening the changes, and the first one the city is moving on is full lot consolidation or land assembly.

Council voted in early November to issue a notice of intent to expropriate a key property, known as the Irwin Block at 9282 Young Road. Chilliwack officials are willing to pay “fair market value” for the property and have been in contact with the owner.

The block eyed for land assembly is bounded by Young, Yale Nowell, and Princess. The aim is to create a massive property measuring 1.5 hectares that will appeal to future investors. The concept plan they unveiled features commercial and mixed residential uses in three mid-rise buildings surrounding an urban park.

City of Chilliwack already owns 10 lots on this central city block and wants to acquire the majority of the remaining properties through CEPCO over the next several years.

The future of downtown received a real boost when the community learned that UFV would be opening a business education centre at Five Corners next year.

Bank of Montreal officials announced on Dec. 7 the donation of their former branch building on Yale Road to the University of the Fraser Valley, for an education “plaza” focused on business development and training.

The gift of $850,000 from BMO Group to UFV, along with $650,000 from CEPCO for renovations, make for a total donation of roughly $1.5 million to build the newest UFV campus in the heart of downtown.

The downtown core will be “transformed” by the arrival of a new UFV campus in the middle of it.

Renovations will start in the new year, with the new UFV Plaza expected to open in September 2013.