Nelson city council heard the latest proposal for upgrades to the Hall Street corridor from Rob Fershau and Jim Roe of MMM Consulting Group on Monday evening.
The Kelowna-based pair unveiled their newly branded Stores to Shores vision, which includes plans to refurbish Hall Street from IODE park to the waterfront. They’ve completed 90 per cent of their design work, and hope to start the first phase of construction in August with a completion date of October.
The plan calls for wider sidewalks and stairways, trees, flowers and greenery, welcoming amenity areas, street furniture, public art, better intersections and parking, improved traffic flow and reliable infrastructure. The current plans are updates from the 30 per cent vision presented to council last year, but some councillors weren’t thrilled by the result.
“What I’m seeing is a very ambitious schedule for moving ahead, and I understand why we’re wanting to do that and get things moving… but is it even really doable?” asked councillor Candace Batycki.
“The key is we need to get it out now,” said Fershau. “Our plan is ambitious, but doable. It’s about how quickly we can get it to tender, and we also don’t want to disrupt downtown.”
Batycki also asked if there will be an opportunity for residents to respond to the 90 per cent plan before it moves ahead. Roe and Fershau said the design reflects the feedback they received last year, and takes the original plans and adds additional detail.
“I think if you looked at that 30 per cent sketch, some of the sections and things we did and compared them to our detailed designs, it’s really just driving down more detail into those plans. How do grades work and surfaces and treatments and the connections?… We really didn’t deviate from any of the key elements that risk you favour from the public.”
Batycki wasn’t convinced. “Okay, I guess I don’t agree,” she said.
Batycki expressed concerns about the Hall Street plaza, saying the original design had a “pedestrian, green” feel, while the 90 per cent plans look more like a plain parking lot. “I don’t know what to do about that but I guess I would plead for more trees,” said Batycki.
Concerns were also raised by Stewart McDonald, who owns a building on the corner of Hall and Front Street. He said part of the designs he looked at on the city’s website include plans to cut off his parking. He said it could prevent trucks from having access to their businesses.
“From my point of view, I’m not too happy about it,” he said.
Fershau and Roe said one of their goals was “zero net parking loss,” and ideally they would like to end up with more parking than when they began. It isn’t clear yet whether that will be a possibility, but Batycki suggested other parking that’s being created nearby could be used.
Other aspects of the project that have been addressed include the Cedar and Vernon intersection, which could be improved to attract drivers and lessen the traffic burden on Hall. They proposed two long-term solutions, which generated a fair amount of debate in council.
“We’re not short on challenging intersections in Nelson,” said Mayor John Dooley.
Dooley reminded residents that this is only the first phase of the entire redevelopment of Hall Street, and that they will be keeping local businesses in mind while going about their work.
For instance, BiBo’s patio should remain open for the majority of the time construction is in progress.
The Hall Street project is a major component of the city’s Sustainable Waterfront and Downtown Master Plan. The upgrades on Cedar Street will support the development of the former Kutenai Landing site and Nelson Commons.
The 149-page MMM report is available online at nelson.civicweb.net.