A detailed plan for revamping downtown Elmira should be in place prior to regional road reconstruction projects, Woolwich councillors decided this week.
To that end, they approved the development of a streetscape plan for the downtown core, allocating up to $15,000 to The Planning Partnership to carry out the work.
The plan will build on the Toronto-based landscape architecture and urban design firm’s earlier award of a contract to carry out an Elmira core area and urban design project, which will look at ways to incorporate underused lands around the edges of the core, considering elements like public spaces, main floor commercial, residential opportunities, building design, vistas and road configuration.
In addressing council during Tuesday night’s online session, manager of planning Jeremy Vink said the work was originally scheduled to get underway last year but was pushed back due to the pandemic.
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“The region is working to complete a number of road reconstruction projects in Elmira, in and around the core area on Arthur and Church streets. As part of the reconstruction projects, the township is able to provide comments on streetscaping items such as sidewalk widths, surface treatments, landscaping, street lighting, opportunities for seating and other items,” he said in his report to council. “The costs for such additional streetscape items as part of the road works are township costs. The township then needs to budget accordingly for such enhancements.”
The streetscaping issues weren’t part of the original core review, but the new study will run concurrently with it using the resources of The Planning Partnership, said Vink.
“We think it will give a better overall comprehensive plan for the downtown.”
Councillors quickly endorsed that idea, voting unanimously in favour of the extension to the core review.
“I think this is extremely necessary,” said Coun. Scott McMillan, noting a formal plan would help in making requests to the region – both Arthur and Church streets are regional roads.
“I think something like this gives us credibility when we make that request – it’s no longer somebody writing a letter, it’s no longer just a councillor. It is our council, and it is backed by experts, and it is a well thought out and fully formed request that we’re making. This gives us more credibility when we’re asking the region to give us a downtown that people can live in and not just drive through.”
Given the upcoming regional road work, now is the time to get a plan in place ahead of time, agreed Coun. Larry Shantz
“I think it’s wise to add to this to what we’re actually doing rather than after the fact,” he said. “It’s probably better to plan ahead rather than behind the facts.”
“We’re going to have some work being done on the street anyway, and the last thing we want to do is to get the work done from the region and then turn around in the next year and say ‘oh, but we want this instead,’” added Mayor Sandy Shantz.
“The timing is good. I think it’ll be good to have an overall plan for our downtown and how we want it to look going forward.”
The core urban design and streetscaping plan are due back in February or March, said Vink.