Langford to Spruce up Rail Area as ‘cultural Precinct’ with Food, Artisans
A scruffy part of Langford along the railway tracks will get a major makeover as a “cultural precinct” designed to attract food providers, artisans and entertainers, dog walkers and cyclists, and entrepreneurs starting to build their businesses.
The $1-million project to revitalize Station Avenue between Peatt Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway will be funded through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Gas Tax Fund and feature a plaza for sellers’ huts made of wood and repurposed shipping containers, spaces for food trucks, improved parking, a dog park and new landscaping.
“I’ve been doing this job for over 30 years and this property has not changed … it’s like a leftover piece from another era and it’s time to bring it into the new era of Langford,” Mayor Stew Young said Tuesday.
“If and when the train runs again, this will be a major part of that operation.”
Langford and the Island Corridor Foundation, the non-profit behind the preservation of the track between Courtenay and Victoria, signed a 30-year lease agreement for the parcel of land in Langford’s downtown.
Young said the return of the E&N Railway as an Island commuter service hinges on population growth and the eventual demand for improved transportation services in the region.
Young said as Langford’s population reaches 50,000 and the area continues to be one of the capital region’s hot spots for new housing, the rail corridor will play an important role.
He said there are plans for more density — new condos in higher buildings — in and around the corridor and Langford’s downtown. “We’ve done a lot of rentals, but we’re missing that $400,000 to $500,000 price range for condos. The demand is there,” said Young. “By going with higher buildings, we can provide that housing for young people, seniors … and we want to keep it close to the rail corridor.”
The Station Avenue improvements will focus on arts and culture, said Young, and fit with the city’s partnership with Royal Roads University and the University of Victoria to bring post-secondary learning to Langford.
Young said the city is massing property in Langford’s downtown to develop satellite campuses, but didn’t provide a timeline on when those might open.
He said the partnership with Royal Roads and UVic could include plans to build a performing arts theatre in Langford.
Young said Tuesday’s announcement “sets the tone” for future arts and culture projects like the theatre.
“For many years, council has focused on expanding recreational opportunities. Now we plan to turn our attention to arts and culture, providing new and exciting family-friendly options for residents and visitors,” said Young. He noted the new area is close to Veterans Memorial Park and a children’s spray park.
Langford residents and businesses have long complained about the appearance and general decline of the railway area around Station Avenue. In a statement, Premier John Horgan, a resident of Langford and its MLA, said he looks forward to seeing “new life injected into this area, helping showcase how Langford is a tremendous place to live, work, play, and raise a family.”
Young said the project will transform the area into a cultural hub that celebrates local First Nations, showcases Langford’s evolving cultural identity and the area’s history, and creates “incubator opportunities” for small businesses and artisans. “It will be a great place for entrepreneurs who can’t afford a bricks-and-mortar store to display and sell their products,” said Young.
It will have food trucks with offerings not represented in Langford’s restaurants, bike racks, public art and other amenities incorporated by local builders, added Young.
Larry Stevenson, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation, said the project “perfectly” reflects the foundation’s mission. “We are proud to partner with Langford to turn this land into a beneficial and vibrant community asset.”
The parking and dog park area will be completed this fall, while other features will be rolled out early next spring. Artists and small businesses interested in learning how get involved can contact Langford’s manager of business development.