Councillor Linda Hepner: multi-storey industrial buildings are a chance to be creative

Using multi-storey industrial buildings to further intensification could help liven up industrial zones, but could come with a risk of losing businesses in city centres to inexpensive industrial land. That’s according to Coun. Linda Hepner.

I was able to catch up with her after she was unable to attend the Metro Vancouver regional planning and agriculture meeting mentioned in my post Surrey’s industrial lands could be pivotal for Metro Vancouver and a post I reblogged from the Langley Lowdown, Langley’s agricultural land could be lost to industrial demand.

Even though Surrey holds 46 per cent of Metro Vancouver's industrial lands, its major industrial areas make up only a snippet of that, as it shows in this map. Illustration courtesy of Eric Vance & Associates and Metro Vancouver.

Even though Surrey holds 46 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s industrial lands, its major industrial areas make up only a snippet of that, as it shows in this map. Illustration courtesy of Eric Vance & Associates and Metro Vancouver.

The discussion on industrial intensification at the meeting sparked discussion on a few ways to intensify. Increasing multi-storey industrial buildings was one of them.

Industrial zones mostly operate within business hours, then it’s lights out

Hepner said that industrial areas tend to be left empty outside of regular work areas.

“Oftentimes we hear from an industry that they’re an oasis unto themselves after closing hours,” said Hepner.

Allowing different kinds of businesses, like dance studios and restaurants, into industrial zones via the third and fourth storeys, could brighten up the industrial areas.

“They may (end up) with a little more vitality in those areas,” she said.

Hepner said she liked the idea of putting something out of the ordinary on top of industrial businesses, like the rooftop soccer field in La Jolla, San Diego.

“You could have industry the bottom and something like a playing field on the top,” said Hepner.

An existing rooftop field in San Diego lies on the Thornton Hospital Cardiovascular Centre at UC San Diego’s East Campus. It is also joined on the roof by an archery range and a 1,200-stall parking lot.

Why industrial businesses piled on top of industrial businesses might not work

Map of Surrey Industrial Land Inventory. Courtesy of the CIty of Surrey.

Map of Surrey Industrial Land Inventory. Courtesy of the CIty of Surrey.

Surrey already has a very small percentage of multi-level industrial buildings, but 30 per cent of Surrey’s industrial land is still underused.

Eric Vance & Associates did a study last year for Metro Vancouver about industrial intensification. In the study, they compared other cities levels of intensification.

The study said that Portland, Seattle and San Francisco were found to have higher densities and also operate multi-storey buildings.

“Where there are higher densities, they are often because non-accessory retail and office uses are permitted on at least a limited basis,” the study said.

The study found that operating strictly industrial businesses in a multi-storey basis would be a challenge because many industrial businesses need access to loading bays.

Hepner echoed that consideration. “That’s a serious conversation that would have to happen between industrial businesses, architects, city planners,” she said, adding that product movement is a large part of many industries.

Allowing other businesses into industrial lands on upper levels of multi-storey buildings would still be considered intensification, said Hepner, since it still frees up land elsewhere.

More varied businesses in industrial zones could mean less vibrant city centres

But that would also mean city centres would also be competing for businesses since industrial land is generally cheaper.

“My one concern is with the bleeding out of commercial offices into industrial zones,” said Hepner. Businesses like travel agencies might be tempted to grab up low-priced realty above industrial businesses.

“You want those to be agencies that provide vibrancy in your town centres,” Hepner said.

. . .

But there are more aspects to the possibility of industrial intensification in Surrey. Transit talk coming up still.

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