At a morning press conference on City Square plaza (night view at left), Kelly Wyatt, director of development engineering at the city, indicated that on Nov. 8 City Council would be considering a recommendation from the executive committee to keep the plaza a pedestrian-only space through the winter pending the outcome of a downtown transportation study that is supposed to be finished by June 1, 2012.
“The report will be going to council for their consideration on Tuesday,” says Wyatt. “We’re proposing maintaining this as a pedestrian only space over the winter and evaluating whether we want to introduce traffic into the space next year.”
Originally, the plaza was designed to accommodate a low volume of traffic with a posted speed limit of 30 k.p.h. Since it opened to pedestrian traffic in August, says Wyatt, the city’s received anedotal feedback from the public about keeping the plaza vehicle free. “It’s come up as part of public discussion, and as we’ve looked at managing traffic in the space, but mostly as we’ve looked at ways to program the space and ensure that it’s active and well-used, we think there’s some real advantages [to not allowing vehicles on the plaza].
“The original intent was that the space would be closed to traffic any time there was an event,” says Wyatt. “We were actually looking at 200 or more programming days a year, so there would have been a lot of days when it would have been closed to traffic. So the question arose if it was worth opening the plaza to traffic on the remaining days or should we try to program it full-time.”
If Council accepts the recommendation, you can probably look for the plaza to be the site of a skating rink this winter. Another confirmed event is a reception for the 25th anniversary Rick Hansen Man-in-Motion tour on Feb. 4.
The consultant for the $400,000 downtown transportation study will begin work next month. When asked if the city might look at interim measures to alleviate some of the traffic tie-ups in the downtown, such as perhaps restricting parking on 11th Ave. between Broad and Albert, Wyatt replied, “If the consultant has any early recommendations that we can implement quickly to help alleviate the congestion and frustration we certainly will do so. But worst case is we’re looking at June 1.”
Construction on the stage at Cornwall & 12th Ave. is to be finished in the next two weeks, Wyatt added. It will be available for community groups to use on a permit basis. A grand-opening for the plaza is set for next spring.