A people-friendly redevelopment of the St. Ann’s block downtown is “a great plan” on paper, but it has to get in line with other infrastructure demands on the city’s drawing board says Mayor Walter Jakeway.
The mayor, councillors, city officials and downtown entrepreneurs got a preview of the redevelopment “vision” Monday at an urban planning open house at the Tidemark Theatre.
“So far we haven’t seen a price tag,” Jakeway said. “Actually, this is our first time seeing this. It does give a good indication of the potential of downtown. It’s a great plan. I don’t think right now we can afford to do too much of it. We can probably do a small portion of it to start. It does set the future.
“A lot of cities have got themselves in trouble over the years trying to force downtown development and hopefully our city won’t have the same problem,” the mayor added.
“We’ve got competing areas in our city also looking for basic services that we have to balance off before we go too far with this. Those people are paying taxes and looking for basic services. We need as much public consultation as we can get on this.”
Kevin King, urban planner with Vancouver-based Dialog, said: “The city has asked us to look at a conceptual level of the public realm around St. Ann’s.”
“Our approach is that the most successful scenario is treating the public realm and some of the private realm owned by Seymour Pacific Developments as a singular space. One of the big ideas is a green link from City Hall along St. Ann’s Road to Robert Osler Park. It’s about starting to pull the benefit of the waterfront park back into the city.”
The concept also calls for more pedestrian space along Alder Street in front of the Scotiabank, turning Dubeau Street (the lane behind Shoppers Row) into a pedestrian boulevard and transforming parking spaces into public spaces such as farmers markets on the weekend.
“The idea of continuous use of the space relies on collaboration between Seymour Pacific and the city,” King said.
Scotiabank Professional Accounts Manager Keith Davidson said: “It’s going to be great for the town. It’s going to be a town centre. It’s going to tell people that people are willing to build here and move here. Psychologically people need to see construction. This is a great place to be and it’s a good time to build.”
The city’s Land Use Services Manager Ross Blackwell said the long term planning vision is to “undertake an exercise that will look at all the opportunities and assess the constraints facing the downtown core so that a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to revitalization can be explored and implemented strategically.”
Blackwell said the initial planning for the St. Ann’s block has been accelerated by the Seymour Pacific project. “It’s a little earlier than would be the ideal in the world of linear planning, but we saw the opportunity and we adjusted things to suit. The bigger picture is still to come.”