To help make the renovated plaza more accessible to those with mobility issues, the city has decided to alter the original plan for Market Square, doing away with the curbs that would have lined the border between the plaza and the parallel parking spaces along Wellington and Downie Street.
The idea was brought up by Coun. Bonnie Henderson during new business at Council’s meeting on Monday, Feb. 13. Rob Russell of the City Centre BIA was in attendance, and explained to Council the reasoning behind the change, noting people in wheelchairs will be able to enter the Square at more points should they not have to navigate curbs.
Instead, the plaza will start at street level. Thirty-two concrete bollards - which are short squat pegs- spaced 2 metres apart from one another will block vehicles from entering the square, differentiating between roadside parking and pedestrian space.
These bollards will also be removable via a locking mechanism, so that they can be taken out should Downie and Wellington streets be closed down for larger festivals, like the recent Hometown Hockey celebration in December.
Russell noted that, in such a scenario, curbs would act as an additional tripping hazard. Henderson asked why the bollards need to be removable at all, to which director of infrastructure and development services, Ed Dujlovic, answered that removable bollards would allow more room for tents and other structures as needed.
The bollards, as well as adjustments to grading, will come with a $40,000 price tag. Russell says his organization is offering to pick up the bill for the adjustment.
“The city’s done so much already,” he said. “We don’t want to burden the taxpayers further.”
Russell added that the concept has already garnered the support of the Market Square Committee. Talk of fundraising events have begun, and some businesses have offered to fully sponsor individual bollards.
Coun. Tom Clifford warned that there could be extra costs, including staff time for removing/installing the bollards prior to and following a festival.
In response, Coun. Kathy Vassilakos noted that any extra cost for staff time could be included in the rental costs to those booking the site.
A motion to support the BIA request was passed with only Clifford opposing.
Possible lost parking
Also being debated that night was the possibility of angle parking at the southern extremes of the plaza. Currently, the plan calls for a one-way throughway from Wellington to Downie that would allow for parking in front of the businesses lining what is currently Market Place. The plan calls for 23 straight-in spaces facing the businesses and nine parallel spaces behind.
Russell requested that the design instead feature angle parking rather than straight-in, reasoning that, as the throughway will be one-way, angle parking will cut down on cars that pull out and exit in the wrong direction. It will also make backing out safer and easier.
Changing the plan will come at no extra cost to the city, as it’s simply a matter of painting lines on the ground differently; however, it will mean the elimination of six parking spaces.
Not all councillors were OK with this.
“I think parking is critical,” said Clifford, noting some angry responses he had heard from residents during a recent visit to the bank. “I do not support this.”
The adjustment to plaza parking was not passed. Instead, it was referred back to staff for a more detailed report. Once the report is in, the public will be consulted on the matter at one of the upcoming Market Square renovation public meetings.
Henderson then requested that a drinking fountain be included into the Market Square plans. Dujlovic warned that the city was already digging into its contingency plan, largely due to unforeseen, outdated infrastructure that had been dug up during the underground work. These old pipes and other items were removed.
“We’re finding a lot of interesting things down there,” said Dujlovic.
But Henderson noted that installing the needed connections for a water fountain now, while the plaza is already dug up, would be cheaper than doing it later. To this, Dujlovic agreed.
Henderson then entered a motion to include the necessary hook-ups for a future water fountain.
However, Clifford said he’d need the full cost of such a project before he’d agree to it. Coun. George Brown took the opportunity to bring up the need for public washrooms, a topic he’s passionately argued for in past Market Square debates.
However, CAO Rob Horne asked for Council to give staff more time to explore the issue of washrooms and water fountains. He said staff is currently looking into including both options using City Hall’s pre-existing facilities, negating the need for added costs.
With that, Henderson withdrew her motion.