Parksville city staff will proceed with plans for a public square and one-way traffic on Memorial Avenue, after a discussion and vote at the Monday (Feb. 3) city council meeting.
All council members with the exception of Coun. Al Greir voted to approve $60,000 in funding toward planning, design and engagement around the creation of a public square and one-way traffic on Memorial Avenue.
Traffic will flow east on the street, with an exit to Hirst Avenue through the city-owned parking lot beside the Masonic Temple.
The estimated cost for the project, a large part of which includes utility upgrades and maintaining the health of the historic trees as well as creating the public square, is $1.75 million.
Greir voiced his objection, mostly based on location and price tag.
“I just don’t see where the activity and the number of people are going to be around to use it… I think we should give this project a lot of consideration,” said Greir.
“For me, it’s not an ideal place for a public square. A public square that’s in between two buildings. I just don’t see the public using it – we’ll end up with maybe some homeless people there, and having our bylaw officers continually moving them from there. The Port Alberni highway is very very busy. I don’t see where there’s enough volume of people walking around to enjoy a public square in that particular place because it’s just too busy,” said Grier
Coun. Adam Fras, Coun. Marilyn Wilson and Coun. Doug O’Brien all spoke up in favour of the project, with O’Brien giving a particularly passionate plea in its favour.
“Whether we think a public square there is not feasible or not a good idea, is really not part of the conversation here. The public has said that they want a public square there. They said loud and clear ‘we love this idea,’” said O’Brien.
“I believe it is time that we listen to our community to say that hey, this is a great idea, let’s go on with it. … Councils, as far as I’ve been here, have said we’ve got to get on with this downtown revitalization program, and we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that, and we’ve done sweet Fanny Adams. … I believe that this downtown public square is the start of greening our downtown revitalization. I think it’s a great start.”
Following direction from the Dec. 16, Parksville council meeting, city staff have consulted with businesses on Memorial Avenue about the proposed changes.
Acting director of engineering Joe Doxey said that staff have reached out and followed up with businesses in the area, including a walk-through of street with business owners.
“Everybody that we were able to get in touch with on the street was on board with and supportive of the project,” said Doxey.
Adequate parking was an initial concern for business owners, but the current design indicates only a net loss of two parking stalls. Public outreach has also been conducted on the project in the past.
The concept for the public square details a space that could host a variety of community activities, including the possibility of a food truck area, art exhibitions, cultural events and a potential extension to the popular Craig Street Market.
The project will help maintain the health of the 34 American elm trees planted in memorial of Parksville First World War soldiers who died in active duty.