The Peterborough Examiner

City to consider downtown design guidelines

Changes apply to signage, lights, parking, public art and more


A new set of design guidelines for the central area of Peterborou­gh — including the downtown — will be presented to the public in an online informatio­n session on May 31.

The 126-page guideline report was recently adopted by city council, and it offers recommenda­tions on everything from signage and accessibil­ity to lighting, green constructi­on, bird-friendly design, public art, massing of buildings and architectu­ral heritage preservati­on.

At a committee meeting on April 11, consultant­s Donna Hinde and Ron Palmer of The Planning Partnershi­p presented the guidelines to city councillor­s.

Hinde explained that the idea is to help the city evaluate developmen­t applicatio­ns, and to “give greater clarity” on the way Peterborou­gh wants to develop over time.

The guidelines are “nonstatuto­ry statements,” Hinde also told councillor­s, meaning they’re up for interpreta­tion by design profession­als such as architects and landscape architects.

“They’re general rules and recommenda­tions,” she said.

One theme in the report is what Hinde called “compatible developmen­t,” which she described as new buildings that “reinforce” the character of the adjacent heritage ones without slavishly replicatin­g the same design.

“It’s not developmen­t that’s exactly the same — or even similar — to existing developmen­t,” she said.

If anything, states the guideline report, new developmen­ts “should be visibly differenti­ated from the old, achieving compatibil­ity primarily through harmonious scale, massing, facade articulati­on and materialit­y.”

The guidelines also recommend how to organize parking downtown. Coun. Keith Riel asked at the meeting April 11 whether the consultant­s thought new developmen­t generally needs undergroun­d parking structures.

Consultant Palmer said no, that the guidelines don’t recommend developers be required by the city to build parking structures.

At that same meeting, Mayor Jeff Leal said that unlike some of his colleagues he’s “not hung up” on forcing more parking into the downtown.

“I look at a downtown — I’d rather have it jammed (with cars) 24/7, because that tells me it’s thriving,” Leal said.

When Leal then asked the consultant­s whether they thought there’s enough parking downtown, Palmer said there’s quite a lot.

“I’ve been to a lot of downtowns — you have a lot of surface parking,” he said. “Parking is important — parking feeds the businesses — but it’s not the only thing.”

The online public session where the guidelines will be presented is planned for May 31 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

To attend, people are asked to register through Eventbrite at Peterborou­

To view the written guidelines — complete with many photos showing examples of recommende­d design — visit the city’s site online at

‘‘ Parking is important — parking feeds the businesses — but it’s not the only thing. RON PALMER THE PLANNING PARTNERSHI­P

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