City of Abbotsford Official Community Plan

The Engagement of Abbotsforward

Urban Planning & Policy

Abbotsford, where cars and parking lots have historically dominated the landscape, decided to rethink its future. “Abbotsforward” was a ground-breaking project that sparked dialogue with thousands of residents and culminated in a bold, new Official Community Plan (OCP). Developed through evidence-based design, the new Plan sets direction for growth to 200,000 residents, focusing new homes, shops, and jobs into denser neigbourhoods that support walking, cycling, and transit. Growth scenarios were developed to demonstrate how this Plan will increase transit ridership, reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions, enable more residents to walk to work and groceries, and more. In addition to planning and urban design, DIALOG also provided public engagement services on this project.

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Abbotsford, BC
The City of Abbotsford

Bunt & Associates
Kerr Wood Leidal Associates
Toderian Urban Works

DIALOG Services

Planning & Urban Design

Unprecedented engagement

There were almost 8,000 distinct public interactions during the engagement process, which created a community-wide sense of ownership over the Plan’s success.

Take the project to the people

The engagement was taken out to the people, including malls, parking lots, festivals, storefronts, gurdwaras, and more.

Pathway to community wellbeing

Research between health and cities helped drive the planning.

Growth in ridership

Transit demand will increase along with population density, and the city will hit a critical mass threshold to move ahead with comprehensive transit strategies.

Different pathways for growth

The project team developed different pathways for growth to test with research and the community.

Evidence-based design

Measures were developed to compare the performance of different planning scenarios, helping staff, Council, and residents understand trade-offs and make informed decisions.

Story-telling with maps

Measures were spatially analyzed to help tell the story. For example, measuring intersection density was one way to create an understanding of neighbourhood connectedness for walking and cycling.

Raising the bar on dialogue

The engagement process brought the evidence-based approach to thousands of residents in workshops and online, allowing them to offer informed input on how Abbotsford should grow.

Unanimous support from Council

The new OCP was unanimously adopted by Council in 2016 and implementation has since been underway. DIALOG has supported the City in implementation planning.

Enhance Agricultural integrity

Agricultural areas will be protected as places for agricultural production and processing, and of thriving livelihoods.

Make It Work

Implementation, follow-through, consistent commitment, culture change, and capacity-building is ongoing.

The Team

Historic Downtown Plan

Dovetailing off of the City’s OCP came the Historic Downtown plan. Again, engagement played a monumental role in carving out the plan. Density that spoke to the street was a top priority.

Distinctions between home and public will be felt through heighten differentiation carrying a memory of Montreal or New York.

As was the activation and animation of the downtown in a way that celebrated the farming community.

Farming functions will need to be logically considered in public facilities such as the size of spaces for parking.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that will make people’s day’s easier. Cover from the relentless British Columbian cuts people slack.

Density and variety will bring visual and economical variety to Downtown.


2016 Excellence Award, Community Connections – City of Abbotsford Official Community PlanUnion of BC Municipalities
2017 Award of Planning Excellence in City and Regional Planning – City of Abbotsford Official Community PlanCanadian Institute of Planners
2017 Gold Award, Excellence in Policy Planning (City and Urban Areas) – City of Abbotsford Official Community Plan,Planning Institute of British Columbia