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Francisco scrubs Langley First Street development project

A car drives by the Village Pizzeria lot, owned by Richard Francisco who proposed developing it into a multi-story building from Seawall Park to above First Street. It would have stretched 215 feet from Boy and Dog Park toward Wharf Street.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
A car drives by the Village Pizzeria lot, owned by Richard Francisco who proposed developing it into a multi-story building from Seawall Park to above First Street. It would have stretched 215 feet from Boy and Dog Park toward Wharf Street.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

The owner of the Village Pizzeria building and more property on Langley’s First Street said Thursday he will not pursue major development plans.

In a phone interview with The Record from his vacation home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Richard Francisco said the six-story, mixed-use building plans are stalled. He chided the city’s leaders for wanting too much from him in studies and public meetings, and said that he was unwilling to scale back the project.

“I’m through with Langley,” he said.

After years of planning and concept, Francisco presented his preferred design in mid-May to a packed room at Langley City Hall. Much of the crowd was opposed to his plan for a six-story building, when viewed from Seawall Park, to above First Street, occupying space from Boy and Dog Park up toward Wharf Street, where the city owns a large stretch of bluff. In total, the project stretched 215 feet along First Street. Two options were presented: one with five stories and a continuous block of storefronts, and one with six stories and a public viewing area separating the upper three stories, complete with an elevator down to Seawall Park.

“I’ve spent tons of money, gone through four different designs, two different architects—it’s not cheap,” Francisco said.

“I’m very disappointed,” he later added. “I’m not mad. I’m not angry. If this project can’t fly, I have no idea what Langley’s looking for.”

News of the project’s demise was a surprise to First Street business owner Fred Lundahl.

“I’m sad that he’s decided he’s not going to go forward,” he said. “I think that properly done development that takes into consideration the nature of the historic look and feel of the downtown area is welcome.”

He later learned that the city wanted view loss and mitigation studies to address concerns from some business owners on the other side of First Street.

Langley Mayor Fred McCarthy said he plans to continue to work with Francisco on a “workable solution” for a development on First Street. 

“This would be the biggest project we’ve had here in a long, long time,” McCarthy said. “Possibly ever.”

“It’s kind of a deal where there needs to be some back and forth here,” he added. “And I was hoping he wasn’t ready to say he was finished talking with us.”

McCarthy described the tension between property owner and the city as one needing compromise. He cited Langley’s zoning code and ordinances regulating building height, which Francisco hoped to trade for the public viewing area and elevator. That wasn’t going to work, McCarthy said, especially given public input from business owners on First Street. But he said the city offered other ideas, such as relocating the project farther up First Street, away from Boy and Dog Park, where it would not block any views. That site would also have allowed for Francisco to build four stories below street level, and two stories above.

“Apparently he’s taking the position that he has to have everything he wanted,” McCarthy.

That wasn’t going to work, Francisco said. Any time the city gives up public property, there has to be a public benefit or a swap. Francisco said it would be too difficult to go through that process.

“The city drew a line in the sand,” Francisco said.

“I’ve done studies to death,” he added.

 

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