Ladysmith’s First Avenue is Canada’s 2017 Great Street. (Black Press photo)

Ladysmith’s First Avenue wins Great Street in Canada honours

Mayor Aaron Stone said the street has shaped Ladysmith’s identity

Ladysmith’s historic First Avenue has won the prize for Canada’s Great Street in 2017 from a jury of professional planners.

The award is handed out annually by the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) and the organization reviewed 17 submissions from across Canada based on a set of criteria of planning best practices that considered social, economic, and accessibility and safety factors, and elements such as design, culture, history, and landscape.

Mayor Aaron Stone said the street has shaped Ladysmith’s identity as a “charming, diverse and vibrant west coast community.”

“We’re absolutely stoked and I think it’s a validation of decades of work that’s gone into First Avenue from the previous councils and more than anything from the volunteers and the businesses that have made their investments and put their blood, sweat and tears into First Avenue whether it’s there business or building,” Stone said.

While Smithers received the most votes from the public and was awarded People’s Choice: Great Street, a jury of certified planning professionals gave its Great Street distinction to Ladysmith.

The CIP’s jury statement described First Avenue as exhibiting “all the qualities one would expect from a great street: visually-interesting building facades, generous sidewalks, attractive landscaping and artistic details, places to rest, and places to gather.”

“This street, with its diverse mixture of local businesses, housing and services, has been a focal point of daily life for community members for more than a century. Streetscape enhancements, heritage preservation, the adaptive reuse of historic buildings, and the many unique and publicly accessible festivals and events held throughout the year, are key ingredients to First Avenue’s success as a Great Street,” the statement noted.

Stone also credited organizers of things such as the Festival of Lights, Arts on the Avenue and Show and Shine.

“Those were all things that they looked at when they judged it. We provide the foundation but it’s the work of all those volunteers and business owners that are really the icing on the cake,” Stone said. “The town works hard to keep downtown clean but it’s really just the foundation.”

Great Places in Canada contest winners were announced on World Town Planning Day, an internationally celebrated day that recognizes the accomplishments of professional planners and their contributions to communities.

CIP awarded Coquitlam with the Great Public Space award for its Town Centre Park.

Voting was open for three weeks in October and over 8,000 ballots were cast for people’s choice awards.

“The last time a B.C. community received the Canada’s Great Street honour was back in 2011,” said Ladysmith city manager Guillermo Ferrero.

“Winning this award for 2017 truly acknowledges our community’s commitment to defining and celebrating First Avenue as the heart of downtown Ladysmith and highlights the significance of this exceptional street and its importance to our community.”

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