By Doug Hallett
The executive director of the Downtown Guelph Business Association sees the city’s proposal for redesigning St. George’s Square as “a work in progress,” but he’s delighted that city hall is planning upgrades to the square and nearby downtown streets.
“I think there is more conversation to be had about it,” Marty Williams said of the design proposal for the square.
However, the underlying premise of changing the square so that it has “better, more usable space is a good one,” he said in an interview.
Currently, St. George’s Square is “all chopped up into little pieces,” he said. Having been used for so long as a transit hub, the way it’s laid out is “not living up to the potential of what it could be.”
The city’s thrust to redesign the square and to change the look of streets such as Wyndham and Macdonell is largely driven by the need to replace sewers, water pipes and other underground infrastructure, Williams said.
“They are saying that while we are digging the street up, what can we do?”
The redesign work is also connected to the city’s plans for redevelopment of the Baker Street Parking Lot and surrounding area, he said.
The city’s redesign of Carden Street, which was undertaken in conjunction with creation of Market Square and its winter skating rink and summer splash pad, has set a new standard, Williams said.
“The marker now is what happened at Market Square and the terrific transformation of that part of the downtown,” he said.
City staff’s draft proposals for a new downtown streetscape manual and built form standards will go to an April 7 meeting of council’s planning, building, engineering and environment committee, but no decisions are to be made by council at this time.
Members of the public and the business community will have opportunities to provide comment online and through upcoming public engagement sessions, a city hall news release said.
The draft downtown streetscape manual includes integrated design criteria for on-street parking, sidewalks and street furniture, the release said.
“A flexible approach, similar to Carden Street, is proposed for key streets to provide equity among all users – pedestrians, cyclists, transit, and private and commercial vehicles,” it said.
“Other enhancements include details for street tree plantings and bike facilities.”
The city’s proposed built form standards will provide design direction for private and public investment and development in the downtown, it said.
The overall project will be part of discussions at a May 28 city council meeting about the proposed Guelph Economic Investment Fund, which city staff want to create for use in redeveloping the Baker Street area and later elsewhere in the city.
By Doug Hallett