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08 Apr

The public sector must continue to lead through action

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Both the public and private sectors have a role to play in realizing revitalization goals and objectives, especially in downtown areas.  The public sector has to lead the way by showing an obvious commitment to change by investing in the quality of the public realm.  This is especially true in the early stages of redevelopment, where the onus will be on the public sector to show new direction and to provide evidence of a lasting commitment to the adaptation of a downtown into a diverse, high quality, pedestrian-friendly district.  The “public realm” is all public streets, uses and open spaces – including streetscapes, gateways, views and visual character, pedestrian amenity and comfort and public art.  Public Sector commitments are most commonly in the form of streetscape and servicing upgrades.  Construction of larger-scale public institutional projects can also make effective use of public money – i.e. best bang for the buck – and serve as a catalyst for further change beyond the original purpose behind the institutional project.  Private development initiatives can be expected only in response to a demonstrated commitment of the public initiative.  RFA understands the challenges and complexities involved with redevelopment of downtown spaces.  It is also important to focus on a concentrated area and ensure that all actions are co-ordinated to the extent possible.


13 May

COUNCIL PRESENTATION: DOWNTOWN SOUTH REDEVELOPMENT PLAN, MAY 12, 2014

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1) Purpose of Presentation

a) To clarify certain matters about which there appears to be some confusion.

b) To be very clear to Council and the public as to what we require in order to proceed with the development.

c) To answer questions that members of Council may have.

2) Future of Farmer’s Market

• There was a story circulating that it was our intent to significantly change or even dislodge the farmer’s market from George Zegouras Market Square.

• Our intent and hope is that the farmer’s market not only stay at Market Square but indeed expand and grow due to an increase in marketing opportunities.

• In addition, we do not have any concerns if the farmer’s market were to expand into the former Memorial Arena.

• Our only suggestion was to remove the buses from Market Square so that it is safer for pedestrians.

3) Future of the former Memorial Arena

• Our greatest concern with this building is that it is not currently being used, and the siting of this building does not lend itself to easy conversion to alternative uses.

• While we feel there is potential for it to be used as a marketplace, it is more important to us that the building simply be used even if that were for an ice arena.

• Further, by having the Police Headquarters across the road from the Memorial, the potential of attracting a private investor would be enhanced.

• We believe that by taking decisive and specific action the future of this building can be secured.

4) Transit Operations

• We believed the idea of operating transit out of and adjacent to the former Memorial Arena had merit, but we have come to appreciate that for the long term viability and heath of transit operations, the transit transfer facility should ideally be located further north.

• While we would have no specific issue with any site determined by the City as meeting the needs of transit services, we believe that in the short to medium term, locating transit transfer operations along both sides of Pinnacle Street between Campbell and Victoria Streets would be a viable option, for the following reasons:

o This site is further north and would help in achieving improved efficiency for transit operations to the north.

o This area could be developed to provide transit transfer operations relatively easily at minimal expense to the City.

o There are minimal on-street parking that would be displaced; these are not among the more desirable parking spaces in the downtown.

o The location for transit would be very close to the heart of the downtown.

o The library building could be used to provide support services for transit.

o There is a signalized cross-walk on Pinnacle Street to allow transit users to safely cross the street.

o On-street transit transfer operations are successful in many Cities.

5) What the Developer Needs from the City

• Doing the Century Place development is a risky venture given that we are planning to put badly needed residential condominiums in the heart of the downtown, in an area that is generally not considered a premium location for quality residential construction.

• To reduce that risk, we need to create the impression that the downtown is much safer than it is now, and its environs are appropriate for residential uses.

• That is why we are proposing the Police Headquarters be located on the City-owned lands on the east side of Pinnacle opposite the former Memorial Arena.

• In its own right, we believe this site is an excellent location for the Police Headquarters, superior to other sites being considered.

• Further, developing this site for the Police Headquarters is likely to be less expensive overall than other sites due to land acquisition and development costs; in our estimation perhaps as much as $3 million – money that can be allocated to helping further secure the future of downtown Belleville.

• We know that putting the police building on this property displaces the transit operation, but we believe that other, and frankly more suitable locations for transit over the long term, can be found, and we have proposed a plausible solution that we believe can work in the short to medium term.

• We understand that there may be concerns among the Councilors regarding the cost of building a parking garage in the short term. We appreciate why this may be a concern for Council. We are willing to take a different approach to addressing the issue of parking. We have ideas that we would be prepared to discuss with the City that would replace the parking lost by the police building, over the short term, without the necessity of a parking garage. This would give us and the City, along with the downtown, time to develop solutions to parking that would address the needs of the downtown over the long run, which may or may not necessarily involve constructing a parking garage.

• In short, what we require from the City is the location of the Police Headquarters in the downtown on the east side of Pinnacle, and a commitment to work with the developer to find a short term solution to parking needs, and the willingness in the future to work with the developer to devise long term solutions to downtown parking issues.

6) Visioning

• Council has taken bold steps to deal with the City’s infrastructure deficit and to develop a vision for renewal of the downtown.

• While we have not stated here today that some of those ideas contained in your plan for downtown need to be done immediately to facilitate this development, we want to strongly emphasize to Council that it must not abandon the vision for downtown it has developed.

• Components such as upgrades to George Zegouras Market Square and the removal of the HR building, and others – these were not OUR ideas – but we would hope that in time the City will proceed to implement them because doing so will ensure downtown renewal and revitalization is fostered and allowed to build momentum.

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