Plan calls for $10.5M in improvements to revitalize downtown Sydney
Cape Breton Regional municipal councillors have endorsed in principle a plan to revitalize downtown Sydney that calls for $10.5 million in investments for the area.
The next step will be for a steering committee including CBRM staff to come up with recommendations to implement the plan that will be considered when council meets to determine the 2018-19 budget.
Rob LeBlanc, president of Ekistics Plan+Design presented the
Sydney urban core plan to council at its regular meeting Tuesday evening.
The $10.5 million figure in the Ekistics plan wouldn’t include the cost of any land acquisitions that would be required. It would include just over $7.5 million to redesign Charlotte Street from Dorchester to Townsend Street. It also outlines about $973,000 for parking lot enhancements at the Capri Lounge, $585,000 for two-way street conversions and intersections, almost $744,000 for George Street linear parks, $327,000 for signage and wayfinding, $285,000 for a façade program and just over $100,000 to install modern parking meters.
LeBlanc said the plan really focused on Charlotte Street, particularly making it friendlier to pedestrians and trying to reconnect the waterfront to the downtown.
“We think it’s important to look at creating a plan that will craft an economic development strategy which has a much larger reach than just the downtown itself,” he said.
“We were asked to deal with issues such as parking and transportation and active transportation, transit, those sorts of issues.”
Deputy Mayor Eldon MacDonald, who represents the area on council, said the process followed by Ekistics was well-received and elicited a good amount of public feedback.
“There are some opportunities that we’re going to have in the coming years with infrastructure improvements that are going to have to be made to our downtown,” MacDonald said.
Growing a downtown area requires luring people back into the area, LeBlanc noted.
“If you’re going to grow your retail, you’re going to grow commercial and office, if downtown is going to be a new vibrant space, the only way to do that is to grow the housing stock in the downtown,” LeBlanc said.
In the case of Sydney, the target would be 300 new residential units in the downtown area.
An entire chapter of the plan addresses parking. LeBlanc said in Sydney parking is really more of a distribution problem than a quantity issue, and how it is administered and paid for. It’s also important to keep revenues from parking invested in the downtown, he added.
LeBlanc described Charlotte Street as being in “great disrepair.” The street is due to have a new water line installed and as a result will be dug up and reconstructed in the next few years.
Several members of council stressed the importance of remembering that while this process was particular to downtown Sydney, there are other urban cores in the CBRM in need of attention and there will be lessons learned from the Sydney project that could potentially be applied in those areas.
“If we see this come to life, what can happen there?” Dist. 11 Coun. Kendra Coombes said.
Shown above is an artist’s conception of what Charlotte Street where it meets Wentworth Street would look like if a plan to revitalize downtown Sydney goes through.
Show above is the bump-out at the gateway entrance to Charlotte Street if a plan to revitalize downtown Sydney becomes reality.