North Core Streetwork A Pilot for Future Projects
By Pat Forrest
Nobody looks forward to running into big public works street projects that will cause them to have to detour or sit in a lineup as the minutes tick by. But an undertaking in the downtown north core planned for 2022 is giving citizens a chance to reimagine the area and provide their input to the city on how best to redesign the popular destination, as well as set the tone for redevelopment of other areas in the community.
Two road sections—totalling about 600 metres between Wilson Street and Red River Road on Court Street and from Court Street to Cumberland Street on Red River Road—will start renewal in the spring of next year. While bound to be disruptive to drivers, the project also presents a rare opportunity for the public, according to its manager. “It has been about a half a century since there has been a roadworks project of this magnitude in such a prominent area. This is an opportunity that hasn’t come our way in most of our lifetimes to really make a difference in the look and feel of our city,” says Guy Walter, a landscape architect with the city’s parks and open spaces department.
The project will serve as a pilot for urban renewal across the city, providing a new standard for how design challenges are addressed in the future. Citizen input into what they’d like to see in the reworked area has been strong, with more than 600 people responding to an online survey and others attending a virtual town hall-style web event. The local BIA has also been engaged at every step, as have other stakeholder and community groups. While there is still a lot of work that is needed to finalize plans, Walter says that the public has so far been very clear in what they want.
“People are overwhelmingly asking for pedestrian and public outdoor-friendly spaces. They want to see people before cars. They want to see more activity. They want to have more outdoor spaces, more patio spaces, and they want to see that connection to those spaces become a lot more accessible,” he says. Walter says that at the end of the project, pedestrian space will have more than doubled and boulevards will have been expanded to a minimum of five metres, enabling more patio development for nearby restaurants and pubs.
While the city will continue to continue to seek public input, residents won’t have to wait until next year to sample what they’ve been asking for. Pilot projects will be launched this summer, with the primary one located on Red River Road.
For more information and to provide your input, go to: getinvolvedthunderbay.ca/reimagining-north-core-streetscapes.