Duncan looks for plans for Whistler Street, old Red Balloon Toy Store site

City Repair Project tapped to assist

The City Repair Project has been chosen by the City of Duncan to create concepts and plans for the Whistler Street area and the old Red Balloon property at 85 Station St.

At the council meeting on Sept. 16, council decided to have the Oregon-based City Repair Project and its co-founder Mark Lakeman, who is also the principal of the community architecture and planning firm Communitecture, take on the work.

The CPR, which was founded in 1996 by a small group of neighbours interested in sustainability and neighbourhood activism, is known for educating and inspiring communities and individuals to creatively transform the places where they live.

In a report to council, Duncan’s CAO Peter de Verteuil said that the city is experiencing issues of public disorder along the Trans Canada Highway corridor, and in particular in the area of Whistler Street.

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He said the alignment and orientation of buildings, lack of pedestrian opportunities, and limited landscaping in the area don’t provide a welcoming environment for most customers and members of the public.

“Even prior to the increasing public disorder issues on Whistler Street, this street was in high need of attention,” de Verteuil said.

“Council’s strategic plan includes working with TCH businesses and residents to develop plans. While the main plan envisioned was the Safer Community Plan, development of a plan for Whistler Street would likely be a welcome initiative.”

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As for 85 Station St., de Verteuil reminded council that the city became its owner last year after the property was not redeemed at tax sale due to the large outstanding tax balance that was a result of the demolition of the building through the city’s “remedial action requirement” process.

The old building, which housed the Red Balloon Toy Store, was ordered to be torn down by the city in 2014 after a backhoe accidentally struck it in 2009, causing significant damage.

The city took over possession of the site after its previous owner didn’t pay the costs of tearing down the building, which was approximately $400,000.

RELATED STORY: CITY OF DUNCAN WINS COURT CASE OVER RED BALLOON TOY STORE PROPERTY

De Verteuil said council’s strategic plan also includes facilitating a community discussion on the future of the site, and the plan calls for approaching consultants for proposals.

“Initial discussions have been initiated with staff from the City Repair Project to determine their level of interest in assisting with these two projects,” he said.

“Their staff were quite keen on both projects and will put together a draft proposal for council’s feedback. It is envisioned that there will be economies of scale by undertaking these two separate consultations at the same time.”

Coun. Carol Newington said at the meeting on Sept. 16 that of the two projects, she believes Whistler Street needs the most assistance.

She said she likes the idea of getting the businesses and stakeholders in that area involved in this process.

“Having input will be a big boost for them because they are feeling a little downtrodden,” Newington said.

“Having something on the horizon for them will make them feel more included.”

Coun. Jenni Capps said she believes the City Repair Project is a great organization to facilitate planning and community discussions for these projects.

“The CPR’s emphasis is on ownership and community connections so this is a great direction to go,” Capps said.

“I want to hear from the CPR on both of these initiatives.”

Mayor Michelle Staples said the initiative for Whistler Street will breath new life into the area “after it has gone through so much”.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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