Whatever happened to the Laneways, Pathways and Walkways project in downtown Collingwood?
The goal was to connect the sidestreet and off street parking lots and businesses with Hurontario Street, allowing pedestrian traffic to flow through beautified walkways safely and efficiently.
Lane from Hurontario Street across from Loblaws to off-street parking on Ste. Marie Street is dark and often is the target of graffiti artists. It presents the perfect opportunity for beautification work.
In April 2013, we interviewed Margot Nicholson-Trott who at the time, was the Vice-Chair of the Downtown Collingwood Business Improvement Area. She had told us that BIA was in the process of identifying the laneways, pathways and walkways that would qualify for the beautification project.
“Signage for example would need to be improved. A lot of people don’t know that they exist to help them get from Hurontario Street to a back parking lot without having to walk all the way around the block.”
Nicholson-Trott said pedestrian ways throughout the downtown district would need to be freshened up to become more inviting to pedestrians.
“… and then also cleaning them up which could be anything from a mural mounted on the wall, maybe just painting them another colour, improving lighting, it could include benches, it could include chess tables, maybe some greenery, so it’s sort of depending on the pathway, the width of it, and where it goes to.”
In 2018 – Laneways, Pathways and Walkways Project is back on the front burner
Five years later, the project is back on the table and appears to be moving forward.
Penny Skelton, Chair of the Collingwood Downtown Business Improvement Association, says the board has dusted off the 2013 Laneways, Pathways and Walkways project and is looking to re-invigorate the initiative.
“In January we presented to the Development and Operations Committee , to give notice that we intend to seek funding to create a CIP (Community Improvement Plan) for the laneways. If successful we will develop plans that focus on the maintenance, rehabilitation and redevelopment of targeted areas.”
Skelton says the ability to work with the Municipality for the Community Improvement Plan adoption will provide major benefits for property and business owners.
“One major benefit is that Municipalities can make grants or loans with CIP project areas to help pay for certain costs, and can establish Tax-Incremental-Equivalent Financing programs.”
Two thousand and seventeen saw the BIA instigate and partner in the creation of a Wayfinding Study for the community. Skelton says the results of this study will soon be presented to Collingwood Council, adding that the major outcomes align with the BIA and Town values.
“The study promotes directional signage from the outskirts of Town into the downtown core and encourages people to park their vehicles in the Town’s Municipal parking lots. In keeping with the Town’s active transportation policy, the BIA is encouraging all to walk through our downtown core and discover all we have to offer. Two thousand and eighteen will see the development of a strategy to create an information hub within the Municipal parking lots as well as directional signage throughout the Downtown. A CIP also allows for the registration of grant and loan agreements on title.”
Skelton says her fingers are crossed that provincial funding will be made available to allow for the creation of a redevelopment plan for the downtown district laneways.
Create a place visitors and locals want to explore, connect and discover new places
Collingwood’s Rick Lex would like to see this initiative move forward in the near future. Lex has transformed what was a bleak area of Collingwood’s downtown into a thriving arts and culture district thanks to his vision and investment in redeveloping the Tremont, Tremont Annex and Simcoe Street Theatre buildings. He feels the presence of pedestrian friendly, people-place alley ways would be a key ingredient to improving traffic flow throughout the downtown district.
“Gibson & Co recently demonstrated how a little bit of care and creativity can transform a laneway. It’s time that the BIA pick up the torch and move forward with some of its own long stalled plans to make the towns laneway’s friendly and accessible. Look at the current condition of the laneway beside the Northwood Club, hardly a welcoming space. This desolate stretch of pavement and blank concrete walls connecting the main street to one of the downtown’s largest parking lot would be a great place to start.”
Even on a snowy day the alley to Gibson & Company is an inviting pathway to a thriving new off-street business. Creating evening lighting makes this lane safe and friendly after dark
Lane beside Northwood Club is not inviting but has the width to create an attractive people place connection from Hurontario Street to an off-street parking lot
Lex says having interesting, welcoming and safe public spaces in the downtown will create a more vibrant centre, a place visitors and locals want to explore, connect and discover new places.
The Laneway Project – Toronto
In Toronto, the Laneway Project has achieved great interest.
“We believe that thriving public spaces help to create strong communities, and that laneways have at the potential to be vibrant community spaces that support healthy neighbourhoods.”
The Toronto Laneway Project initiates and implements community-driven demonstration projects to improve and activate laneways throughout the city. The group works with City of Toronto officials and other stakeholders to create laneway friendly policies and procedures. The objective is to develop resources to inspire and support residents, community groups, businesses and other stakeholders in upgrading and making better use of laneways.
Looking Back to 2013 – Interview with former Vice-Chair of the Downtown Collingwood BIA, Margot Nicholson-Trott