Town Ward candidates discuss future of downtown at debate
Pedestrian malls, road closures, architecture and Little Lake condos addressed at meeting
Downtown Peterborough should try closing streets to motorized traffic more often than just once a year in summer to create temporary pedestrian malls, said one candidate running for council in Town Ward.
The idea emerged during a debate for all Town Ward candidates at The Venue — organized by the Downtown BIA — on Thursday evening.
“I love, love, love when Hunter St. closes in summer,” said Jim Russell, referring to the annual one-day downtown festival called Pulse.
But he’d like to see the city try closing other streets, too — George St., maybe — as a way to create pedestrian malls.
It may mean businesses must put up with a degree of inconvenience, Russell said — but he still thinks it’s worth trying.
“I think we have that kind of capacity in Peterborough,” he said.
All five candidates running for Town Ward were present at the debate: Russell, plus Dean Pappas (who is running for re-election), Kemi Akapo, Jane Davidson and Jenny Lanciault.
This is the only ward-specific debate being held: there aren’t any similar gatherings scheduled for the other four wards.
Town Ward includes the downtown — that’s why the DBIA organized it.
While the event was well-attended, there weren’t as many people as there had been a week prior when the DBIA, the Women’s Business Network and the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce organized a debate for mayoralty candidates.
The Venue was packed when Mayor Daryl Bennett debated Diane Therrien (councillor in Town Ward for the last four years).
Therrien is leaving a vacancy in Town Ward, since she’s running for mayor.
On Thursday evening, the candidates were proposing their ideas for projects to increase downtown vibrancy when Russell brought up his idea.
The debate covered a wide array of topics: the perception that the downtown is unsafe, for example. All said they personally feel safe downtown, but that the perception of it being unsafe is persistent.
Davidson said panhandlers are frightening to some people — but everyone should remember that panhandlers themselves are fearful.
“They’re homeless — in pain, and frightened,” she said. “People who encounter them are frightened by their fear.”
All candidates agreed on the need to preserve and protect heritage buildings while also adding intensification.
“Absolutely, yes,” said Dean Pappas, for example, while Kemi Akapo mentioned how the town of Port Hope gets movie shoots precisely because of its heritage buildings.
When it came to finding more parking downtown, Akapo suggested parking apps that will allow you to pay for your parking with your phone.
Russell suggested “doubling down on public transportation” and Davidson suggested a return to streetcars in Peterborough.
Lanciault wanted to see more developers create underground parking (rather than leasing a public parking lot, such as Atria has for the Y lofts).
Regarding a proposed new condo development for Crescent St., none of the candidates said they disliked the plan from Ashburnham Realty (as reported in The Examiner Thursday).
Lanciault said she lives on Crescent St. right next to the proposed development — and she likes the plan.
Dean Pappas said he liked it too.
“It is intensification, and it is in the downtown — and he’s a good builder,” said Pappas, referring to developer Paul Bennett.
He also mentioned that there will be a rezoning requested of city council and the next council will also have to consider Bennett’s proposal to close part of Crescent St. to traffic.
“That will be a public process.” The election is Oct. 22.
A debate was held Thursday evening at The Venue on George St. for candidates running for a seat on council in Town Ward. Left to right are Jane Davidson, Jim Russell, Jenny Lanciault, Kemi Akapo and Dean Pappas (who is running for re-election).