Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thoughts on Downtown

Ask ten random Londoners what should be changed about the core and you're likely to get ten different answers. So now that city planners have drafted a "master plan" to revamp the city's heart, there's likely to be much public debate about whether the ideas are constructive or a silly waste of money. Chip Martin of The Free Press summarized many of the suggestions here.

Since I know you're all waiting for my take on things, here it is:

Dundas Street: The idea is to turn our main street into a pedestrian walkway on a "flexible" basis. But heck, why be flexible about it? Why not turn part of Dundas into a permanent pedestrian mall like Sparks Street in Ottawa?

Alley way connections: Back alleys would be put to use for something else besides dumping garbage. It's about time.

Queens station: A transit hub on Queen's Avenue outside St. Paul's Cathedral. Why there exactly? How big would this hub be? Would it ruin the view of our city's oldest church? Not that St. Paul's isn't already hidden by surrounding buildings.

Clarence Street: Enlarge sidewalks and plant trees. Well, OK. I'm in favour of all the trees the Forest City can grow. But a pedestrian bridge over the CN tracks? Probably a waste of money when there are other crossing points.

Sports heros' way: Setting aside the question of whether athletes are really heros, why would it be a good idea to turn Kensington Bridge into a "pedestrian link?" Isn't this one of the main driving routes into downtown? And the bridge does have a sidewalk already. It's Blackfriars Bridge that needs to be turned into a pedestrian bridge as I've already stated.

As for featuring Labatt Park as part of a gateway to the core, we should advertise Labatt Park as a destination in its own right. It is, after all, the the oldest continually used baseball diamond in the world. And the city should be promoting it. They own it.

Market district: "Enhance and connect" the public squares outside Budweiser Gardens (alias the JLC) and Covent Garden as a venue for festivals, etc. I won't judge this idea until I see exactly what they have in mind but it seems to me it's attractive as it is.

Richmond Street: Improve "pedestrian walkways" (aka sidewalks?) and "reduce the north-south artery to three lanes, one of which would be for rapid transit." Not sure about this. Fewer lanes usually means more traffic congestion.

City gateway: A new public square in front of the VIA station with "access" to Dundas. Not necessary, unless we're suddenly going to have thousands of people taking the train and strolling to Dundas Street. But this isn't Europe. Our train service will have to improve a great deal before more people want to use it. And what's on Dundas that these hoards want to visit?

Forks of the Thames: Ideas here include a riverside promenade and a concrete beach. One of the pictures associated with the article shows a proposed "beach" at the old Victoria Hospital site. A refreshing treat on a hot summer day for people who can't make it to Port Stanley or Grand Bend. But wherever they put it, I'm afraid an inner city beach is going to be costly to keep up. Is it worth it?

Many people would say that, considering London's current unemployment rate, City Hall should be focusing on more serious issues than making downtown prettier. But it's also likely that beautification projects bring more people to London and encourage the idea that we're a forward-thinking community. I'm in favour of positive changes for downtown, so long as they incorporate heritage buildings and a bit of nature. But these ideas need more discussion.  And I'm sure we'll have plenty of it...

No comments:

Post a Comment