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Langley’s priority: boosting business in 2014

Langley City Councilwoman Rene Neff speaks at a recent workshop on city priorities in 2014. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Langley City Councilwoman Rene Neff speaks at a recent workshop on city priorities in 2014.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

If this year goes the way Langley’s mayor and city council envision, it will be a business boon and step into modernity.

Mayor Fred McCarthy shared his economic development plan with the Langley City Council last week, and it’s full of ideas of how to spur growth in the Village by the Sea. One of the top priorities is a bit of re-branding with business owners, residents and visitors.

“Between the parking situation and the tourism perception, we need to change the conversation,” said Councilwoman Rene Neff, referring to a popular complaint that parking is a rare commodity in the city.

Instead of lamenting vacant storefronts on First and Second streets, city leaders want to focus on the potential.

“Our self-talk should be that these buildings are opportunities,” McCarthy said.

Highly visible businesses like the former Mike’s Place restaurant and Dog House Tavern, both located at the intersection of First Street and Anthes Avenue, are empty. While the tavern is owned by a couple with plans to convert the old watering hole into an upper-story residence with a street-level community space, Mike’s Place has been up for lease since July 2011.

Discussion of using both spaces has swirled among business leaders and council members. During the winter holiday shopping season, the tavern’s windows were decorated. That’s a short-term patch to a long-term problem, city leaders said, noting that the tavern’s owners requested a public-private partnership for the space. Part of the tavern building is on a city easement, and owners Charlie and Janice Kleiner requested it be made part of their property so they could build structures to prevent the hundred-year-old building’s floors from further developing a “jog” or sag.

Just such a partnership is part of McCarthy’s plans for revitalizing Langley. Another idea is to have a building erected at the bottom of Wharf Street, perhaps into the bluff, with public access connecting Cascade Avenue with the marina, like one proposed by Inn at Langley owner Paul Schell.

“It’s very important for us to be open to those,” McCarthy said.

The mayor also presented a month-by-month plan of the city’s focus. January will be information technology and knowledge workers, arts and entertainment in February, food and beverage service in March, real estate in April, port/marina/water sports in May, light manufacturing/”cottage industries” in June, civic groups in July, retail and health and wellness in August, financial services and mail in September, education in October, lodging in November, and transportation and recreation in December.

A three-part approach to the city’s goals this year center around employment, business development and capital projects. One of the largest in recent years is the impending Second Street overhaul of the road and its subsurface utilities. Other projects listed by the mayor include street paving, repairing the steps, lighting and planters at Boy and Dog Park, painting the library, city restrooms and Langley Chamber of Commerce building, supporting private and public partnerships, and designating light industrial areas. The long list of capital projects elicited a word of caution from new Councilwoman Margot Jerome.

“Maybe we need to do fewer projects and do them right,” she said.

One point of emphasis was bringing Langley’s businesses into the digital front with social media training. Having a presence online on Facebook, Instagram and understanding how to use PayPal could help growth, McCarthy said.

 

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