August 26, 2011

The Inviting Value of Living in Langley

The attractions of this historic area are not lost on B.C. developers, who are building a variety of housing that is sure to interest B.C. homebuyers.

BY STEVE THRENDYLE

Drive east from Vancouver on the Trans-Canada, and you’ll hit exits for Langley – informally known as the place “where British Columbia began.” First contact between fur traders from the Hudson’s Bay Company sailing down the Fraser River and the local Coast Salish first nations began as early as the 1820s. The establishment of the Fort Langley fur trading post, with its permanent population of farmers, traders and fishermen, led to the territorial proclamation of British Columbia by Governor James Douglas in 1858. Today, the past literally comes alive at the former Fort Langley trading post, a Parks Canada National Historic Site named after HBC director Thomas Langley.

One of the many riding paths at High Point Equestrian Estate in Langley.

But modern Langley looks far different than its namesake could ever have imagined. Alas, Langley can be a bit of a confusing place to get around – there’s the city of Langley, whose 25,000 residents make up only about one-fifth of the regional population. The much larger township of Langley consists mostly of farms and subdivisions such as Willowbrook, Walnut Grove, Murrayville, Aldergrove, and Brookswood.

To confuse matters even further, there’s the Fort Langley National Historic Site, where actors re-create the early days of the fur trade, and the community of Fort Langley, a village of antique shoppes and businesses that further advance the historic theme. To families or businesses contemplating relocating to either one, the distinctions are moot. Centrally located between Surrey and Abbotsford, with the American border to the south and Fraser River to the north, Langley’s commercial lifeline is no longer the Fraser River, but the Fraser and Trans-Canada Highways.

Call it a bedroom community if you will, but there’s no doubt that living in Langley offers outstanding value across a wide variety of housing styles and types. Virtually all of B.C.’s major home builders have projects underway. Renowned Valley developer Peter Redekop (RKDI) offers the intriguing Suede urban home concept, located within walking distance of shops and attractions in Langley City. Suede takes its hip styling cues from city-centric neighbourhoods like Mount Pleasant and Yaletown and brings them to the Valley at much lower cost. Located in Milner Heights (208th Street and 71B Avenue), Vesta Homes’ master-planned community incorporates the very first Green Street concept of its kind in the Fraser Valley.

When complete, Milner Heights will house 400 families and in several unique styles, including row homes, townhomes, manors, and single-family detached homes. Milner Heights will feature a network of greenways that help preserve the environment and enhance recreation. Ponds, a trail network and extensive landscaping will form the backbone for a thriving and environmentally considerate community.

Headwater waterfront estate homes at Bedford Landing by ParkLane Homes have received numerous awards for architecture and design.

Recreational usage factors very highly into the marketing of ParkLane’s Bedford Landing Homes in Fort Langley. ParkLane – Canada’s Home Builder of the Year, 2010 — has created a master-planned community of riverfront estate homes, townhouses, and even live/work spaces. Yosh Kasahara, ParkLane general manager, sales and marketing, says, “Over 50 per cent of the land is designated as green space. 80 percent of Bedford Landing has been completed and the final phase of the community is now under way—a four storey apartment building, three storey apartment building and 11 live-work townhomes.” ParkLane worked with the municipality to help rehabilitate an oxbow section of the Fraser River known as Bedford Channel. Kasahara continues: “We designed and built a state-of-the-art rowing and paddling facility to take advantage of the world-class rowing conditions on the river.

The Langley Rowing and Paddling Centre, now run by the Bedford Rowing Society, is well-used by local and collegiate water sport groups.” Farther south in Langley City and just off the By-Pass route, Marcon – another major Western Canadian homebuilder – is constructing Cornerstone. Several regional parks and a wide variety of shops and services – including the “power centre” of Willowbrook Mall – make this truly a cornerstone location that is sure to be popular with both first-home purchasers and downsizers alike.

CIRCLE FARM TOUR
Given what was surely an enormously calorie-consuming venture, the establishment of Fort Langley by the early HBC fur traders was quickly followed by forays into farming. Many of the early crops – cranberries, especially – were grown for export to places as far away as San Francisco. Dairy products, grain, beef, pork, and of course the bounty of salmon from the Fraser River contributed to a thriving agricultural economy which augmented fur trading revenues.

In the market gardens and pastures that still make up well over half of Langley’s land mass, not much has changed. Popularized to some degree by books like The Hundred Mile Diet (in which a Vancouver couple subsisted for a year on food grown less than an hour’s drive from the city), Langley boasts several berry farms, dairy centres, a specialty turkey store, and even a handful of respectably-regarded wineries.

Take a break from an afternoon or two spent house-hunting and pick up the Langley Circle Farm Tour map at the Visitor Centre on 200th Street and 78th Avenue. (Indeed, many roads on the self-guided tour are suitable for cycling; though you might want a bike with panniers to load up on heritage turkey and hand-picked flowers!) Attractions include Township 7 and Domaine de Chaberton Estate Wineries, Cedar Rim Nursery, Driediger Farms, and the Fort Wine Company, specializing in cranberry wine.

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