Downtown plans put on hold

New council interested in acquiring post office building on First Avenue

Randy Hawes

Plans developed by the previous council to revitalize downtown are on the shelf.

At their first council meeting on Dec. 1, Mission’s newly elected politicians also unanimously voted to abandon a $6-million project to move Highway 7 off of First Avenue, and to postpone development of the Welton Plaza until options exploring the acquisition of the post office building at the corner of First Avenue and Welton Street are considered.

Both are considered as critical moves to revitalize downtown by the Mission Downtown Business Association

First Avenue is “getting dangerous,” said DBA president Carlo Billinger, noting during a one-day traffic count last year, 162 delivery trucks and 481 trucks carrying gravel and logs were recorded from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Billinger plans to do a similar count this year to reaffirm the numbers for the new council. This time, he will provide numbers by the hour.

Relocating truck traffic from First Avenue to N. Railway Avenue was intended to create a safer environment for pedestrians and a more inviting shopping atmosphere, and the plan to build Welton Plaza was aimed at bringing more people downtown.

The plaza, which would’ve included benches, lighting, landscaping, and bike racks, was designed as a central place for people to visit downtown and a space for community events.

Located at the corner of Second Avenue and Welton Street, it was considered an “essential building block” for the area with other projects extending out from it.

When all the construction drawings are completed early next year, the district will have spent about $75,000 on the project so far. The entire project was to be funded through the Community Gas Tax Funds, said Gina MacKay, Mission’s manager of long range planning, who noted the project will proceed to the design stage as set out in a contract already awarded to an architectural firm, and will be parked once the final engineering drawings are completed.

It will be a shelf-ready project for Mission, said MacKay, noting the project can be picked up at any time.

Council is interested in purchasing the post office building to create a larger area for civic use if Canada Post decides to move out of its downtown location next year.

Canada Post’s manager of media relations Carley Smith told The Record no firm decisions have been made regarding the post office in Mission, but Mayor Randy Hawes said he has already been discussing the issue with “fairly senior managers” from the federal corporation.

“They’re moving all of the sorting to a warehouse in Abbotsford,” said Hawes, who met with Canada Post representatives last week. “They will open a storefront somewhere, and we’re pushing them to stay downtown.”

Hawes expects the First Avenue post office will make the move in late 2015.

“I’m thinking this isn’t a good idea at this time to proceed,” said Coun. Pam Alexis. “Let’s put this on hold and look at other options.”

Other councillors agreed they support revitalization but not at this time.

Coun. Jenny Stevens, who was on the previous council, reluctantly agreed to “put it off” in order to look at acquiring the post office to give the district more space to work with.

“I will not fight against a measured postponement,” said Stevens, who still wanted to find a way to remove gravel and logging trucks from First Avenue.

Billinger hopes the work done so far doesn’t get lost or forgotten,

“The DBA went through three years of consultation,” explained Billinger, noting shop owners discussed the issue with different groups and customers. “The big thing this council can’t lose sight of is something has to be done downtown. It’s not just for downtown merchants, it’s for the community as a whole … People want to be proud of their community.”