Intensification – What’s it all about?

Speaking to a Burlington Rotary Club in January of 2015 Mayor Rick Goldring reported that “Plains Road is the best example of an urban growth corridor”.   It wasn’t the first time the Mayor had spoken positively about the changes taking place along Aldershot’s main street. On an earlier occasion he had said: “There has been much progress made in transitioning Plains Road from a traditional suburban highway, into the urban main street that it is today. Plains Road has become more attractive and walkable and future plans will continue to build on this positive progress”.

One of the main planks in the plan to improve Plains Road is “intensification”. This means filling in the gaps with new buildings, replacing old one-storey structures with new multi-storey buildings and making more efficient use of the land base resulting in more people living in less space along the street.

 

Why we should welcome intensification

Aldershot Library - After (Oct 2012)Aldershot Library - BeforeNew construction along Plains Road gives us an opportunity to replace some of the sad, old structures that date back many decades.  The removal of two used car lots to make way for our new library is one example. New buildings with more floors make better use of our expensive and dwindling land base. Consider the former Aldershot Contractors Equipment Rental site at Plains and LaSalle which has now become the beautiful LaSalle Park Retirement Community, providing housing for many seniors (along with dozens of new jobs).  As these new buildings appear they also bring with them upgraded streetscaping such as wider sidewalks, landscaping and benches, features easily seen in front of the Mosaic building across from East Plains United Church.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIntensification along the Plains Road corridor also brings more people. We need more people. Aldershot’s population remains relatively low considering its geographic size. This low population creates challenges for the sustainability of our churches, schools and businesses all of which want to attract more people. New apartment buildings and condos allow us to add to Aldershot’s population without infringing on traditional low density neighbourhoods such as Birdland, Bridgeview and Long Acres.  More population (which becomes our customer base) also serves to attract new businesses. For example, ESSO said the reason it built a new gas station at Plains and LaSalle is because of the growth in population in west Aldershot.

 

 

 

Creating a walkable community

Putting more buildings, more people, and more businesses closer together along Plains Road creates opportunities for people to walk to amenities.  In fact, the developer of the new “Seasons” condominium (beside Russell Williams) is promoting his location as being within walking distance of the GO Station, Royal Bank, St. Matthew’s Church, and LaSalle Park. Making neighbourhoods more walkable reduces our dependence on cars and improves our health.

 

Managing the process

Although a good thing, intensification must be properly managed. This is why the City of Burlington has created “Mixed Use Corridor” zoning and Urban Design Guidelines to ensure that new buildings along Plains Road serve the long-term best interests of the community.

We still have some challenges along Plains Road.  Intensification is part of the solution.