The City of Duncan turns to online process to get public feedback for two sites, including the site of the old Red Balloon store (pictured) downtown. (File photo)

City of Duncan to go online to gather public feedback on projects

Health crisis has caused the cancellation of workshops

The City of Duncan will switch to an online process to gather public feedback on concepts for the Whistler Street area and the old Red Balloon property at 85 Station St.

The city undertook a public “placemaking” project for the two locations earlier this year with Mark Lakeman and his Portland-based design firm Communitecture.

The project kicked off with a public presentation at the Vancouver Island University on Feb. 28, followed by two public workshops on the two sites in the following days.

RELATED STORY: CITY OF DUNCAN LOOKS TO PUBLIC FOR IDEAS FOR WHISTLER STREET, DOWNTOWN PARK

In a report to council, Duncan’s CAO Peter de Verteuil said participants had an opportunity to voice their interests, and

identified issues and strengths at each site.

“Collectively in groups, they developed strategies, design elements, and a range of activities that they felt would help transform the sites into positive places to welcome the community,” de Verteuil said.

The next step in the process was to hold another round of workshops on the weekend of April 25-26, to present and gather feedback on the preliminary options that the consultant developed based on public input from the first workshops, develop a final concept for each location and present them to council on June 15.

RELATED STORY: DUNCAN LOOKS FOR PLANS FOR WHISTLER STREET, OLD RED BALLOON STORE SITE

But the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has caused the postponement of the workshops.

“It is potentially advantageous to proceed with development of the concept plans at this time, which includes high-level cost estimates, as it is anticipated that after we come through the COVID-19 pandemic, there is likely to be federal and provincial stimulus funding that these concepts may qualify for,” de Verteuil said.

“Our development services staff have been working with the consultants to reconsider how to move the process forward. Preparations have been made to create a PlaceSpeak page for each location. Staff considered developing an online webinar in lieu of the workshops, but were concerned about the ability for people to participate.”

After council gave the go-ahead for the change in plans at its meeting on April 20, the city is expected to post preliminary designs on the PlaceSpeak pages within the next couple of weeks.

RELATED STORY: SECURITY FIRM CHOSEN FOR HIGHWAY CORRIDOR

De Verteuil said if the amount of feedback garnered through the use of PlaceSpeak on the draft concepts is determined to be insufficient, staff could still arrange in-person workshops in the summer or fall if the public health emergency has abated.

“It is noted that this design project was intended to be a participatory, collaborative project with the public,” he said.

“Limiting the feedback to an online platform, especially in this sensitive time, may limit the amount of feedback and will not allow the interactive discussions that would occur at in-person workshops.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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