More vision needed for Whistler Street design
Re: redesigning Station Street park and Whistler Street
I visited the talk by Mark Lakeman when he presented the ideas for improving the current dormant/unfinished areas of Whistler Street and Station Street. His talk was enlightening, his ideas inspiring. I left with the hope that the city of Duncan can come up with the funds and the guts to implement many of his recommendations.
Particularly interesting was his concept that the buildings between Trans Canada Highway (TCH) and Whistler Street should be moved closely toward the TCH (How do we do that?) with parking only on the Whistler Street side, and create a wider area along Whistler Street. This wide area can hold various outside seating for restaurants and cafés, a broad sidewalk, trees, and still have parking for vehicles. There was even space for a kids playground. This would make Whistler Street a warm, inviting place to shop, meet the community and to just hang out.
Nearby examples are Tuscany Village in Saanich or W 2nd Ave. in Qualicum Beach, and even these can be improved on. The only way I can see this happening is if the City imposes a building-scheme that restricts any future renovations/rebuilds to a certain footprint and to a certain look. Historically, this is met with resistance since nobody wants to be told how to do something. However, if pulled through, most residents and visitors will love the charming street. The time-span for this to happen will be long, since exiting owners/investor-groups would carefully consider doing any work unless they see a return for their investment.
Nonetheless, eventually it will happen and once this progress has started and the area becomes more “trendy and desirable”, more owners of existing buildings will be willing to tear down what’s there to create new, up to code structures with shops below and residential housing on top. It’s been done all over the world in many cities and the results are that these urban centres are a more livable and friendler. It also attracts tourists.
The renderings on the front-page of the Cowichan Valley Citizen, Sept. 17 do not show an inspiring concept. All I could see was some patterns on the street, some string lights, and sea-cans? with benches in front. While this might be better than nothing to get the ball rolling, the overall plan will have to allow for more integral structural changes. I encourage the city planers to look at Google street-view at some Italian and other European plazas. Once COVID-19 is contained, I encourage the same persons to visit these said areas, sit there, sip a cappuccino or another preferred beverage and watch the world go by. There is a sense of community and liveliness about these places. This should do the trick in convincing any nay-sayer.