A downtown group wants to kick start plans to revitalize Whistler Street.
The Cowichan Highway Corridor Business Council, which formed in 2019 to work towards dealing with the social issues in the Whistler Street area, successfully lobbied the City of Duncan’s council at its meeting on Feb. 21 to write a letter of support to the Co-op Community Spaces grant program to back up the CHCBC’s application for a grant of up to $150,000.
Co-op Community Spaces, which helps protect, beautify and improve spaces across Western Canada, has committed $1 million in grants to help support projects in 2023.
If the application is successful, the CHCBC wants to revisit plans and designs drawn up in 2020 by the Portland-based architecture and planning firm Communitecture for the City of Duncan that would see Whistler Street transformed into a multi-use urban space and a destination for public events.
Communitecture’s proposed plans have been on the back burner since then, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A letter to the city from the CHCBC’s Faizal Charania said that first round of Communitecture’s designs for Whistler Street, co-created by a diverse mix of community members, yielded striking and doable concepts that the CHCBC thinks is worthwhile to continue working toward.,
He said the details if what the council, which has 150 members, has planned if the Co-op’s grant money is secured are far from finalized at this stage (the deadline for the grant application is March 1 and Charania just found out about the program three weeks ago), but the CHCBC envisions such attractions as Junk in the Trunk, which would be the largest weekly community garage sale on Vancouver Island, and the establishment of a Whistler Street Market, among other projects.
“If the city is willing to walk beside us, step-by-step, we are willing to put in the time and energy to help something amazing emerge from that space,” Charania said to council before the city decided to support the grant application.
“If funded, significant completion, if not completion, can be achieved this year, depending on how far the money can go. In our minds, nothing exists like it around, and no other opportunity known has more potential to energize the highway corridor than this, in a lasting way, and beyond that.”
Communitecture’s design for Whistler Street was intended to make it more pleasant and safe for pedestrians and visitors.
Sidewalks, lighting and tree lines would be placed along both sides of the street and, in some places, there would be small green parklets and swales separating pedestrians from vehicles.
The southern end of the street would become a welcoming gateway, while the middle and north end would be equipped to host performing arts, food festivals, and art markets.
At the council meeting on Feb. 21, Mayor Michelle Staples told Charania that she’s excited to support the grant application and is looking forward to seeing what happens with the project.
“You’ve done excellent work with what you have pulled together around this, and I’m looking forward to ongoing conversations with you and the community that has come together around this,” she said.
“Staff will be reaching out to get you to come in and talk to council and let us know what you’re doing and who your group is.”
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter