With skiers and boarders who use the Creekside gondola this winter finally seeing some semblance of the New Creekside, after nearly 15 years of promises, it's tempting to say the second era of the Whistler Creek area has begun. And as far as Intrawest's plans for Creekside go, it has.
But across the highway, the area of Whistler Creek that Intrawest doesn't own, signs of change are less visible. The pock-marked Lake Placid Road still leads from the highway past a number of older homes in need of maintenance, to the wooden shed that is the Whistler train station. Situated between two little gems of lakes and right next to a popular but tiny park, the train station/shed is many people's first introduction to Whistler.
About eight years ago the municipality put forward a general plan for the redevelopment of this part of Whistler Creek. The concept was to make Lake Placid Road the commercial spine of the area. It included re-paving Lake Placid Road, installing curbs and sidewalks, filling in the ditches, putting the Hydro and telephone lines underground and creating the setting for private developers who wanted to tear down the houses and build two or three storey commercial buildings. The municipality announced it would entertain any and all rezoning applications along the street, in the hope that a small retail and commercial area would develop.
Despite repeated municipal promises - including one cross-my-heart-swear-on-a-stack-of-bibles-promise by former mayor Ted Nebbeling - nothing has happened. This year, for the third year in a row, the municipality has put money in its budget for the Lake Placid upgrade - $850,000. The fear among some Whistler Creek merchants and property owners is that this time they may actually spend that money.
There are two problems as the Creekside Merchants Association sees it: the plan is sub-standard and there isn't enough money available to do what needs to be done.
The original plan was done on the assumption there would be federal or provincial infrastructure money available - on top of the $900,000 committed by the municipality - to help with some of the costs. There wasn't, and there isn't likely to be in the foreseeable future. But that is no reason to lower the standards for the Whistler Creek redevelopment, and the Creekside Merchants Association feels the eight year old, underfunded plans are below the standards set for the village.
They may have a point. The plans no longer include putting Hydro and telephone lines underground. Telephone poles will remain on the street, taking up parking spaces.
Trains may or may not be part of the long-term transportation equation in the corridor, but there is little in the current redevelopment plans that improves or integrates the train station into the area so that it becomes an asset. The train station isn't in a perfect location, but there isn't any better spot elsewhere in the valley.
Admittedly, this is an issue which requires the involvement of B.C. Rail and John Taylor, who owns the Jordan Lodge property next to the train station, but the municipality has a role to play here. A bigger role than it has taken on.
The redevelopment of Whistler Creek is not like buying a zoned piece of property in the village, with covenants detailing what can and can't be built. This is in many ways a more complex issue. As such it deserves no less attention.