The Langford Station Revitalization Project

For many years, residents and businesses have expressed concerns about the appearance and general decline of a 500-metre area between Peatt Road and Veteran's Memorial Parkway in the City of Langford. The site attracted no visitors and supported zero businesses as it was situated along a decommissioned rail line. The Island Corridor Foundation (ICF), owner of the property, recognized that the area needed revitalization and approached the City about working together to address the concerns. The City of Langford and the ICF entered into a collaborative agreement and the City now holds a 30-year lease with the ICF.

With access to the area, and funds from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Gas Tax Fund, Island Coastal Economic Trust, and several small local contributors, the City developed the Langford Station - an arts and culture district in the heart of downtown. This cultural precinct is home to an ecosystem of local artists, retailers, murals, sculptures, interactive lighting installations and food trucks, and on certain days, live music, and events. Retailers, artist studios, and resident food trucks are open year-round from Thursday to Sunday. The Creation Station provides an indoor community space for organizations to host events and workshops, and an event stage brings local musicians and other performers to the district.

The Langford Station has seen a high demand for artist studios and business incubators. To date, the City of Langford has received 25 artist applications and 35 business applications. Those selected have created a community of creatives and entrepreneurs, cross promoting each other and the District. They have an opportunity to build and expand their businesses that they otherwise may not have. The economic impacts reach beyond the District; many of the participating entrepreneurs also sell products by other local makers, extending the economic impact to the wider community.

Michelle from MOTHER.Lifestyle is pursuing her dream and supporting a wide variety of local makers in the process. "I feel extremely fortunate to be one of the businesses at The Langford Station! This opportunity to be a brick and mortar store has enabled to grow in the past few months. I am now able to support other local makers and their families as well. My shop currently has forty-five makers along with my clothing line, Mother. The best experience of the shop is meeting and connecting with the community. When customers come in and purchase items, they are also supporting local families and giving back to Langford. Which is such a great feeling.  I can't wait to see what the future brings!"

Phillip, who owns Buddha Bear Letterpress, lives directly across the street and sees the impact not only as an entrepreneur, but also as a resident. When asked for a short impact Statement, Phillip submitted an entire letter to express his opinion:
"I am writing today to share my experience with The City of Langford and The Langford Station revitalization project. My wife and I had been operating an antique letterpress greeting card company off of the kitchen table and at farmers markets for nearly five years when the opportunity to apply to this project was advertised in the local media. Once accepted we decided to move our family from James Bay to Langford and we were lucky enough to get an apartment right across the street on Station Avenue. So I am able to comment on the project as both a business owner and as a local resident to the neighbourhood and I have nothing but good things to say as both.
Moving in, in December of 2021 we eagerly awaited the completion of the project. The City of Langford was very open and communicative about the unforeseen delays and since the project has opened, have addressed all of my concerns in a timely manner. They should be commended on creating such a wonderful community space that I can see growing and improving over the coming years. As a small business owner I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I have been granted to be included in The Langford Station project as a business incubator and do plan of staying for the entire three year term. There are no other opportunities to have a workspace and retail shop for such an affordable price in other communities. We have been able to upgrade our printer to a much bigger unit and are growing at an exponential rate in our sales, number of designs available, productivity and wholesale clients.
As a member of the community and a neighbour to The Langford Station, my family likes to frequent the strip after dinner to let our two year old daughter run around and burn off some energy. It is nice knowing that she is contained by the fence and the can run freely without concern. We also love to play with the lights, making them change colours and reacting to your voice is a big hit with the kids. My family along with many of my neighbours on Station Avenue have enjoyed the many events hosted by The City of Langford. The Grand Opening Party, Food Truck Fest and Friday's at the Station have all been enjoyed by many neighbours, family and friends. I am constant being asked about the next event to be hosted.
Overall we have had a wonderful experience with the opening and running of The Langford Station by The City of Langford and would recommend other communities create a similar arts and culture district, with the opportunity to incubate small businesses for other entrepreneurs to test their ideas in the real world. The community between vendors has been a great place to bounce ideas around and ask for help with the intricacies of running our different business and the lessons we have learned so far in our first year here have been invaluable."

As mentioned in Phillips's letter, the Langford Station is used by nearby residents daily for a whole variety of reasons. Alone, in groups, or with their kids and dogs, they meet for coffee, stretch their legs, or enjoy chance encounters with their neighbours. With two senior living communities across the street, there are many seniors that enjoy the wide, protected brick walkway and various seating areas. Those who have trouble walking long distances now have a place to gather and exercise safely right across the street.

The Food truck area is also growing in popularity, with all the monthly pads booked as of spring 2023. Several trucks operate on site once or twice a week and a large network of trucks rent out space during specific events. This provides economic opportunities for the operators, their staff, and suppliers as well as providing residents more variety of food and drinks in this destination district.

One of the food truck operators is Albert, owner and operator of Morningstar Coffee. Albert uses the central location to market his coffee to residents and visitors, as well as local cafes and shops, all while roasting small batch specialty coffee right on site. "The station's restoration has preserved an important piece of Langford's history, while also adding modern amenities and design features to enhance the visitor experience. The project has brought new life to a previously underutilized space, contributing to the overall vitality of the region and showcasing Langford as a dynamic and thriving community. The Langford Station project is an excellent example of how historic preservation and economic development can work hand in hand to create a positive impact on the local economy and community."

With a focus on arts and culture, The Langford Station has created artistic opportunities outside of just the studios. Each of the 13 retrofitted units on site has a mural painted on the back, visible from the E&N Rail Trail on the other side of the tracks. Five sculptures have also been installed on site. All art was purchased or commissioned from local artists of Langford and nearby communities. The Langford Station has also become a venue for community events, providing opportunities for local musicians, entertainers, and artist to perform.

In 2022, the Fridays at the Station events were hosted by the Victoria Beer Society (May 20th to August 26th) featuring food trucks, live music, and an 18-tap beer truck. In October there was a two-day Food Truck Festival which expanded to include a closed segment of the street, allowing for more trucks, games, activities, live music, and more. On Halloween, Langford Fire Department hosted Treat Street, a family friendly event featuring live music, a free BBQ, a pet costume contest, and the opportunity to safely trick-or-treat from the Station vendors as well as a number of community partners including local sports teams, businesses, a university, and the RCMP and Fire Department. During December, it hosted activities and music as part of Langford's Winter Festival. Each of these events was promoted by Langford on their Instagram account to encourage residents to bring their friends and family and for visitors to consider a trip to Langford.

In Early 2023, business owners at The Langford Station have taken the initiative to host artisan markets on site, with the first market on February 11th and several more planned throughout the year. Each event provides additional economic benefit for both the resident and event-specific businesses, artists, and food trucks. Events help build community by gathering friends, family, and neighbours together. The artisan markets also demonstrate how the community is starting to feel empowered to make use of the space.

All of this has taken place in under a year, with the grand opening in May of 2022. The 2023 priorities include more events and the activation of the Creation Station, a 40-foot retrofitted shipping container designed for small scale workshops and events. This will provide local makers with an affordable space to host workshops, classes, readings, art exhibits, and similar events. Much more is planned for Station, and the economic and social impacts will only grow.

This type of economic development/revitalization project is replicable or transferable to other communities. Several communities have already reached out to the City and the Island Corridor Foundation for more information. The keys to the success of this project so far include:
- full-time staff able to coordinate the various components of the program including on-going management of the business incubation initiative
- creative project staff who can provide innovative ideas and seek grant funding to bring those ideas to fruition
- existing positive working relationships to build upon
- commitment to the vision of the project
- ensure site is accessible for all abilities