City council has endorsed a detailed design plan for an overhaul of the city’s downtown core.
At its Monday meeting, council signed off on using Refresh Downtown – a document aimed at promoting downtown as a place to live and do business – as council policy going forward.
The document was informed by the public through several open houses held last year, as well as an online survey. According to findings compiled by city staff, a pedestrian-priority downtown concept was supported during the community engagement events as well as “a more multi-modal and pedestrian design.”
To that end, Refresh Downtown suggests extending the existing waterfront walkway into downtown, with connections from Highway 19A to Shoppers Row.
The document also recommends the installation of roundabouts.
“The traditional intersection, from a safety point of view, there’s more conflict points. A roundabout has fewer conflict points, which is why it’s supported by ICBC,” said Marianne Wade, acting community planning and development services manager for the city. According to the Refresh Downtown document, collision rates have been shown to drop by 40 per cent, while personal injuries and fatalities plummet by as much as 90 per cent when compared to standard intersections. Refresh Downtown suggests roundabouts for three areas: the intersection at Highway 19A and the entrance to the pier, at Highway 19A and Roberts Reach and at Highway 19A and St. Ann’s Road.
Wade, though, said the community had a problem with adding a roundabout at St. Ann’s and Highway 19A.
“When we went out to the community, the roundabout at St. Ann’s and Shoppers was the one that people were more…uncomfortable with the concept,” Wade said.
Staff’s intention with the proposed location was to help ease traffic back-up along Pier Street through to Shoppers Row.
But, she said staff recognized the public’s concern and have put forward options to modify the traffic signal controls to be more pedestrian-friendly.
Council took that feedback to heart on Monday and made the decision to remove the roundabout at St. Ann’s and Highway 19A from the conceptual plan, but keep the text for future reference.
Coun. Charlie Cornfield suggested trying the roundabouts in other areas first.
“I don’t think this is a good area to put an experimental roundabout,” Cornfield said. “I think leaving it as a future potential option is great. Let’s try it somewhere else first and see how it works.”
Mayor Andy Adams agreed.
“While there was consensus that a roundabout would be a good fit at all the public open houses I attended, this location was not a good fit,” Adams said. “There are places that it works and there are places that it doesn’t.”
Refresh Downtown also suggests, with the exceptions of Dogwood and Highway 19A, that there is “broad public support for reducing speed limits within downtown from 50 km/h to 30 km/h, particularly on Shoppers Row.”
The Refresh Document also focuses on integrating underground and above-ground infrastructure requirements into downtown designs, while considering the effects of sea level rise.
The Refresh Downtown document is not a bylaw and is non-statutory. Council’s endorsement of the plan means the document becomes council policy and city staff will refer to Refresh Downtown when considering any actions, projects or dealing with development applications within the downtown core.