A vision for a revamped Hall Street was further refined this year.

2013’s top stories No. 10: Beautifying Nelson

There was a great deal of talk — and even some action — this year about improving Nelson’s look.

There was a great deal of talk — and even some action — this year about improving Nelson’s look. Much of it was criticized but some of it was embraced.

• Plans for redesigning Hall Street (below) to improve its walkability and traffic flow between Baker Street and the waterfront got a mixed response.

“We see the Hall Street overhaul as a catalyst to redevelopment in the central waterfront,” mayor John Dooley said. “Our plan is to, over time, revitalize the entire five-block corridor.”

Kelowna’s MMM Group was hired to work with an 11-member volunteer committee and city hall staff. The firm’s Robert Fershau said they understood the project’s importance in connecting two of Nelson’s major public areas.

Following a public meeting and launch of a Facebook page, they came up with suggestions for IODE park, realigning the community complex entry, creating public plazas, and changing traffic patterns and parking.

The latter worried Pharmasave owner Tim O’Keefe who said it would be “be detrimental to the businesses on that street.”

But in November, city council approved the preliminary design, which would cost anywhere from $1.8 million to $3 million and be broken into at least five phases over several years.

• Stone planter boxes in the interior amenity areas of the 400 block of Baker Street were removed this year, as called for in the Downtown Waterfront Plan.

City manager Kevin Cormack said in doing so, they were trying to open the sidewalk up. “Those planter boxes distanced the amenity area from the activity of what was gong on down the sidewalk,” he said.

Though Cormack would not say the change happened because of loitering issues raised by downtown businesses, Justin Pelant of Ted Allen’s Jewellery said it was “100 per cent” the reason.

The removal of the boxes, built in 1981, resulted in a short-lived protest.

• Nelson saw several sculptures added to its public areas this year, including a handful leased from Castlegar’s Sculpturewalk at a cost of $1,500 to $2,000 each.

“It will be like a rotating public gallery,” explained cultural development officer Joy Barrett, who is also the executive director of Sculpturewalk. “It’s a really affordable way to bring quality public art into the downtown.”

Four sculptures were installed on Baker Street and another on Ward Street outside of Touchstones, all but one by a local artist. The city also bought a sculpture called QR by Winlaw’s Carl Schlichting (seen at left) and installed it on Railway Street.

But two sculptures were vandalized, first Sergio Raffo’s Man Waiting, depicting a man standing on his head with a ball balancing on his feet. Someone chipped the elbow off. “It didn’t look that bad, but it affected the stability so we had to take it down,” Barrett said.

Less than a month later, Peter Vogellar’s Venus de Cello was knocked off its pedestal. It suffered some scraping, but Barrett was relieved it wasn’t smashed to pieces.

Despite the incidents, she insisted public response to the sculptures was positive and it wouldn’t deter efforts to bring more public art to town.

• Nelson’s Festival of Lights returned for a second year, bigger, better, and brighter.

Organizers requested $33,000 from the city’s Spurway fund, dedicated for such projects, but received $10,000 as they did the previous year.

The funds were used to buy white LED lights, which with the help of Nelson Fire and Rescue were strung along the skylines of Baker Street buildings — 5,400 feet worth. They also decorated downtown lamp posts and tree trunks.

While the street level lights are installed seasonally, those on the buildings will be left in place year round and are on timers to come on from dusk to midnight throughout the winter.

“The LED lights work for peanuts — six strings of lights for a month only costs 24 cents,” organizer Maureen Crawford said, suggesting they would look good at any time of year.

Everything was aglow in time for Santa’s arrival at Elfwalk on December 6.

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