Monday, April 9, 2012

Morgan Crossing:
The Ghost of Lansdowne Future?

Yesterday I stumbled onto Morgan Crossing, a development in South Surrey by BC-based Larco Development Group. It's being marketed as the first full-service lifestyle centre in Canada and it's quite impressive.

I looked up the company because of an Ottawa Citizen article I read yesterday that mentioned a developer named Larco doing work in Barrhaven. When I googled "Larco" I eventually stumbled onto Morgan Crossing, but was disappointed to find out Larco Development Group in BC doesn't seem to have any relation to Larco Homes in Ottawa. Nevertheless, Morgan Crossing still seems like a good model for injecting some urbanism into the suburbs.

Imagine your favourite outlet stores, including Jacob, Banana Republic, and Town Shoes, in a boutique setting with three storeys of condos on top. It's kinda Lansdownesque but with a lot more residential units. When you look at previous designs for Lansdowne Park there was supposed to be condo units above the shops backing onto Holmwood Avenue similar to Morgan Crossing. According to an article published by the CBC last April, the units were removed in a deal with the Glebe Community Association and the Old Ottawa South Community Association. That's too bad. This is probably the most defining feature of Morgan Crossing; it looks really good and it helps the development to look more like an urban village than a suburban strip mall. If Lansdowne ends up looking like a big box development, those who opposed those residential units should look in the mirror.

What makes Morgan Crossing even more appealing is the services provided; there's a dentist, supermarket, fitness centre, and pharmacy. They even have a few levels of condos on top of what looks like a big box drug store.

It's this kind of out-of-the-box thinking that makes me wonder what other developers are thinking. When you look at Morgan Crossing you see what could have been at Ottawa's outdoor retail centres, whether the Trainyards or College Square, or the big box developments in Orleans, Kanata, and Barrhaven. Not sure if there was demand but it would've been interesting to see Algonquin College partner with the developer of the College Square shopping centre to put student residences above the stores in an urban village setting.

Overall, looking at Morgan Crossing, OSEG seems to be headed in a similar direction with Lansdowne, although I'm mourning some elements that have been removed from the plan that clearly would've added so much to the park.

Looking at our suburbs, something like Morgan Crossing could've even made a good town centre in any of Ottawa's suburbs since they all have transit stations. Planners, city planners, and fans of new urbansim talk about the need for urbanism and density in suburban settings; perhaps this is the answer. But we can't beat up on Ottawa; I haven't seen many cities doing surburban development well, especially when it comes to density and retail.

As if this developer wasn't impressive enough, they did a good job of getting the public and the community involved. They held a design competition, BC's Best Young Designer Competition, where the participants were able to design a condo suite, and a video competition for local filmmakers to promote the Morgan Crossing lifestyle. The outcome was everything from short films and music videos to promotional videos. Below I've included the virtual tour and some of the submissions that stood out to me. Click here to see all the videos.

I'd love to hear from you. Is this the future of suburban development? Does this give you hope about Lansdowne?

Kevin Bourne

Virtual Tour (Official Video)

The Anti-Suburb

Building New Opportunities

Small World

The Crossing (Trailer)

It's About You

New Urbanism

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