Mark Lakeman is hopeful the draft designs that he presented last week to Duncan’s city council for Whistler Street and 85 Station St. in Duncan could be a vision of the future of the two downtown locations.
Lakeman is a principal of the Portland-based architecture and planning firm Communitecture and a co-founder of the City Repair Project.
The firm was hired by the City of Duncan in September to conduct a public place-making design project for the property and the street, and held a series of public workshops over the fall and winter to gather ideas of what people want to see there.
The designs presented at the City of Duncan’s council meeting on Sept. 8 were the result of those, and other, consultations with the community.
“Hopefully, [these designs] will be seen as a vision for the future and shows how things can be transformed to make life more conducive, safe and inspiring for the community,” Lakeman told council.
Located along the east side of the Trans-Canada Highway near the centre of the City of Duncan, Whistler Street is a 200-metre length of road running from Coronation Avenue to the border of the Municipality of North Cowichan.
In a report to council in September, Duncan CAO Peter de Verteuil said that the city is experiencing issues of public disorder along the Trans-Canada Highway corridor, and in particular in the area of Whistler Street.
He said the alignment and orientation of buildings, lack of pedestrian opportunities, and limited landscaping in the area don’t provide a welcoming environment for most customers and members of the public.
Communitecture’s design for the street depicts a transformation of the public street to a multi-use urban space and a destination for public events.
To make the street more pleasant and safe for pedestrians and visitors, sidewalks, lighting and tree lines would be placed along both sides of the street and, in some places, there would be small green parklets and swales separating pedestrians from vehicles.
Graphics on the street and tensile fabric and string lights overhead would turn three areas of the street into celebrated places.
The southern end would become a welcoming gateway, while the middle and north end would be equipped to host performing arts, food festivals, and art markets.
As for the small parcel of city-owned land on Station Street, Communitecture’s design recommends a variety of seating spaces and gathering areas that would be arranged around a spacious round lawn.
Covered tables to the south and east would provide space for meals and conversations in most seasons.
Berms and boulders to the north would invite young people to play and even splash in a seasonal stream in summer.
Planters and benches across the street would extend the gathering space out into the urban streetscape, and food trucks parked on Station Street and public washrooms in the alley to the north would provide additional amenities.
Council made no final decisions on the concepts presented at the meeting, but asked staff to prepare a report on implementation and timelines.
De Verteuil said that while the city doesn’t have a formal process intended to get further public feedback on the designs, as they were based on a lot of public consultation, staff and council are always open to feedback.
“The next steps are that staff will work on developing more detailed cost estimates and breakdowns for the proposed concepts for discussion during upcoming budget discussions, as these designs are very preliminary,” he said.
“The intent would be that these projects will not be fully implemented until the city is successful in accessing provincial or federal grant programs to reduce the city’s costs.”
De Verteuil said there will also be further specific consultations with the Downtown Duncan BIA and the Whistler Street property owners on the respective projects before either project moves forward.
“Particularly with the Whistler Street project, which includes concepts for both private lands as well as public lands,” he said.
“We will also post these current concepts and Mark Lakeman’s presentation on our existing PlaceSpeak pages and allow for public feedback to be submitted.”
Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples said she is looking forward to see how the process on invigorating the two locations will proceed.
“You have created an amazing product for us to bring forward to the community,” she said to Lakeman.