Carolyn Carleton said she sees endless possibilities on the horizon for Prince Albert's downtown.
Carleton, the newly-minted executive director of the Prince Albert Downtown Business Improvement District, said she was elated to see the city launch its Central Ave. streetscape design survey for public feedback.
“I’ve seen something like this happen in other communities,” she said. “I am excited to get on with it.”
The city is planning a project dubbed the “Big Dig,” which will see the main downtown corridor ripped up to replace aging pipes that have been in use for more than 100 years. The dig will require the replacement of all curbs, sidewalks, and streets, but before rebuilding the city wants to establish a streetscape design plan for Central Ave. and the rest of downtown. Planning Manager Lars Ketilson said the city wants to gather as much feedback as possible before what he called a "once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
“This is an opportunity for everyone to put and bring their vision on what they want downtown to be, so we can take advantage of the opportunity we have and make it a place that Prince Albert can be proud of," Ketilson said at a press conference Tuesday.
The public was invited to offer suggestions on characteristics and features they would like to see in the city's downtown. The short survey, which is available online or at City Hall, will help to inform three design options that will be prepared for further consideration.
“What we want to do is make sure it is welcoming, inviting, inclusive for everyone to have those positive experiences downtown,” Ketilson added. “What we hear is memories of what downtown was in the past. Let’s bring that back.”
Mayor Greg Dionne was equally enthusiastic about moving forward with the reimagining of the central business district. He said this is a pivotal time for the city's core, as the University of Saskatchewan is set to open a campus there in 2020. Just returning from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Halifax, Dionne pointed to the downtown overhaul in Halifax as a striking example of how cities can design a corridor to be both vehicle- and pedestrian-friendly.
The city is still in the design stage and potential disruptions downtown are a long way down the road, Dionne emphasized. He said interruptions will eventually occur, but ensured residents the city will "work on unique ways get around disruption.” Dionne said the "Big Dig" will not happen without federal dollars, but that doesn’t mean the city can sit around and wait. The mayor said it is imperative city staff have a shovel-ready project in hand “so when the funding comes, here it is."
There is no official timeline for the project yet, though some councillors expressed their desire to see the work completed before the university campus opens.
"If the funding came available in next year's budget, we would be moving much quicker,” Dionne said. “We want to be ready.”
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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