A vision for the Downtown 0
A second public workshop on a Downtown Revitalization Strategy attracted over 50 participants, including members of Council and candidates, downtown business owners and residents - and as Graeme Burt, of planningAlliance noted at the end of the evening, "Wow - there seems to be a consensus."
Burt opened the workshop by challenging participants to "put your creativity cap on. The purpose of tonight is to hear from you... The idea is for you to help us in creating a vision for the Downtown."
He presented the same information he gave BWG Council a week earlier, proposing 3 options for downtown redevelopment: an "Avenue" approach, with development all along the downtown, defined as the stretch of Hollland St. from the GO station to Professor Day Drive, and one block north and south; concentration of growth at the 4 Corners; or a "Node" approach, with intensification at both Professor Day Drive and the GO station.
Under the Province's Places to Grow policies, and the County of Simcoe's growth management strategy, "Bradford is going to continue to grow dramatically," Burt said, with a doubling of population over the next 20 years, about 40% of which is supposed to come from intensification within the built-up area. To achieve that, he predicted a need for 270 million sq. ft. of new space, for residential and commercial, within the downtown core.
At the same time, there is a need to create a downtown that is human scale and pedestrian-friendly, and that preserves and reuses some of the buildings of historic value - "a made in Bradford identity. It has to be something that resonates with the people here."
Initially, there were objections. How could the proposal add bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks on Holland without "moving back the buildings"? How could it handle the traffic, if Holland St. was reduced to 2 lanes plus onstreet parking? Why couldn't the Town redevelop its river frontage for condos and cafes? How does the strategy define buildings of historic value?
It was one of the participants who got the workshop back on track. Meade Helman suggested that the task was not to come up with every solution, but to answer the question: "In a perfect world, if we could design it, what would your downtown look like? We've got to get the picture."
Divided into tables, the participants worked with aerial photographs, and provided a picture:
. An "Avenue" approach, redeveloping vacant lots and 1-storey plazas - with one node of taller condos at the GO Station, that would have a "spectacular " view of the Holland Marsh.
. More mixed-used buildings downtown, that could accommodate Seniors and families - creating a built-in consumer base for downtown businesses.
. A Town Administration Building in the downtown core; possible locations included the 4 Corners, the Rotary Park across from the Library, the current Treasury building (utilizing Harman Park), the old PharmaPlus building, the Bradford Community Centre.
. Reinstatement of on-street parking.
. More greenspace, especially to offset the higher densities, and more pedestrian linkages.
Burt reminded participants that while some changes - including parking downtown and bicycle lanes - "could happen tomorrow", other proposals will be part of a long term plan, that could be implemented over 20 years.
The next step: a final report in late December that will also look at "how do we get there from here?" Said Burt, "Let's start now. Let's start making changes now."