By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
A recently approved plan could change the future of Oshawa’s downtown, implementing a vision for the city centre that is scenic, walkable and bustling with activity.
At the regular meeting on June 11, councillors approved the newly minted plan to improve the streets of downtown, both visually and functionally, and guide decision-making around seating, waste and recycling, bike racks, media and newspaper boxes, and street trees.
“The great part about downtown is we’re getting people moving there, living there, we’re building down there, there’s apartments and condominiums coming, the redevelopment of the Fittings Land, and to have your downtown alive and vibrant is exciting, and this is a way for us to participate,” says Mayor John Henry.
The plan, entitled the Downtown Oshawa Streetscape Design Vision, stresses the importance of connecting streetscape improvements to revitalization of the downtown as a whole, noting that any improvements made from the plan will “create a defined aesthetic and character to the downtown, fostering an inclusive and pedestrian friendly environment.”
This marks the first time since in over 20 years that the city is creating a comprehensive vision for the downtown streetscape. The last plan was created in 1996. According to a recent staff report, elements of that 1996 vision were implemented, but, “the plan was never fully realized,” and notes that advances in technology, changes in “aesthetic preferences,” and new design principles around accessibility and the environment needed to be addressed.
Phase 1 upgrades will begin along King Street between Division and Centre Streets, along Athol Street from Centre to Charles, and will also include small portions of Celina Street and Albert Street between Bruce and Athol.
And while this council has given their stamp of approval, several of them will not be back at the table come this fall, when Oshawa residents will take to the polls for the October municipal election. With that said, Mayor Henry does not see this plan being left behind.
“The plan is in place, I think staff understand that. I think the continued growth in the downtown with the residential component is going to be huge and the people that are living downtown are going to want this. So, I don’t think this is going to fall apart in the next term of council,” he says.
The plan’s approval also comes at the same time that council approves another major project for the downtown streetscape.
Moving forward with the recommended staff option, which came after public consultation, the city will now be moving ahead with removing the majority of parking in front of the Genosha Hotel, widening the sidewalk, and making the area more pedestrian friendly.
Option 1, as it was referred to during the consultation period, will see a widened sidewalk and boulevard between Mary Street and the Regent Theatre on King Street. According to the staff report recommending the option, the chosen option is consistent with the plans created in Oshawa’s Plan 20Twenty (a downtown guiding document) to allow for more pedestrians, and it works with the redevelopment of the Genosha Hotel, which staff say will serve as a “visually striking presence” on the corner of Mary and King Streets.
The decision will also eliminate the left-hand turn from King Street onto Mary Street, but staff predict the change will be insignificant, noting that “such an impact is acceptable from a traffic flow perspective.”
While most of the parking will be removed, two to four spots will remain outside the Regent Theatre to accommodate drop-offs for the theatre’s older audiences.
As it stands, the project is set to cost approximately $253,000 with a tender to be issued in early 2019. The city is also allocating a $170,653 grant from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to the project.