Despite the empty lots, abandoned warehouses and buildings, weather-worn "development" signs, and acres of blackberries, the mayor of Maple Ridge sees a lot of potential in the Albion industrial park.
The strip, that runs along River Road from Kanaka Creek Regional Park to 240th Street, and along its connecting side roads down to the Fraser River, includes businesses that still employ several hundred people. But, over the years since Ernie Daykin closed his Windsor Plywood franchise in the area, many other businesses have closed their doors, too.
"I look at this and just see so much potential," Daykin said surveying the Albion industrial lands.
The area used to be a "vibrant" industrial area, Daykin said, with boat builders, RV manufacturers, and several shake and shingle companies. And at one time, the Albion government dock was also bustling with fishing activity.
But no longer.
Consequently, Maple Ridge council commissioned a commercial-industrial report.
That review came to council this week, including strategies for the next 30 years on how commercial and industrial land can be developed to meet future demands.
The report, done by G.P. Rollo & Associates, recommends redeveloping the Albion industrial park, but points out that "significant development" is not expected for 10 years.
Between 170 and 230 acres of new industrial land will be needed in Maple Ridge by 2040, and the report writers suggest these could be found through infill. Those areas include 40 acres under consideration for rezoning in Hammond south of Maple Meadows industrial park, in the Blue Mountain area of north Maple Ridge, in the Albion Flats, on land at 232nd Street an 128th Avenue, and various parcels along the Lougheed Highway - adjacent to Kwantlen First Nation land - east of 240th Street.
"Additional lands with full servicing and proximity to transportation routes is required to remain competitive with other municipalities," the report stated.
And before redevelopment can take place in the Albion industrial area, "major infrastructure costs" are needed to improve the dike, deal with possible site contamination, and improve access.
The report writers suggest that development incentives could be put in place to encourage consolidation and redevelopment.
While he's "not a huge fan of tax exemptions," Daykin said that "you want to create something that keeps people here."
Daykin pointed out a few examples of value-added businesses, for example, BW Creative, which makes $5 spindles out of 50 cent pieces of wood.
There's also a company, Pacific Bending and Machine, with a niche market of building horse-drawn carriages, replicas from the late 1800s that are shipped around North America.
Scattered around the area are lots that used to house businesses, but now sit idle, fenced up with vacant buildings.
Still other lots have never been developed. For instance, the Albion industrial area includes a 22-acre parcel that has no development on it, just an unused building. The land has been owned by the Cohen family since the 1970s.
Daykin remembers many businesses that are now long gone, like Harco, a company that built log homes and shipped them to Japan.
"I was one of those guys down here," Daykin said, trying to eke out a living, trying to feed his family, making an "old pole barn into a silk purse."
With a plethora of auto wreckers with piled up cars and many heavy industrial shops in the neighbourhood, one of the issues the Rollo report pointed out was the need for cleanup in the area.
Something will happen to the Albion industrial area, Daykin said, maybe in a year, maybe in 10.
But, despite the potential he sees in the area, Daykin is also worried about redevelopment squeezing out the smaller businesses, many of which have operated in the area since the 1970s.
If the area is redeveloped in a significant way, "where do the drum recyclers and sandblasters go," he queried.
One of the factors that came into play when Daykin decided to shut down his business in the Albion industrial area was the elimination of the left-hand turn lane at River Road and Lougheed Highway.
Currently, anyone leaving the area has to drive east to 240th Street to exit onto the Lougheed Highway, adding a few kilometres onto the drive.
About 10 years ago, the federal government earmarked money to build a full intersection at the east end of Kanaka Creek Regional Park that would have crossed the tracks.
However, CP Rail quashed the plan because they said, with longer trains coming, there wasn't enough clearance between the 240th Street crossing and where the intersection was planned.
Access into the area continues to be a problem, Daykin said, backed up by the findings in the Rollo report.
The current conversation at the council table is about building a second access point at 105th Avenue and Lougheed Highway, which would cross over the tracks to meet up with McKay Avenue to the south.