City planner Jill Savage and her project team had an open door on Thursday for anyone to make a pitch on the future of the ByWard Market’s public spaces.
The city is taking a close look at the tourist district to understand how public spaces function today and how people would like to see them change. A design plan will create a blueprint for the city to follow.
Savage, the project manager on the study, which started in the summer, said it’s the time to make the market a priority, considering the renewal of the George Street pedestrian plaza, the opening of the Ottawa Art Gallery and the launch of the Confederation Line LRT.
The city has hired consultants led by The Planning Partnership and David Leinster, who’s the chair of the Ottawa urban design review panel, to help planners guide the project.
Savage said the project team is also hitting the road, taking displays to different parts of Ottawa to get more people engaged in the consultation, not just those who live or work in the market.
The city wants to try some pilot projects in the market next spring or summer, but Savage said it’s too early to say what those initiatives will be. The city is planning a big consultation event in January when it will share those ideas, she said.
About 25 people were signed up to make pitches to the project team on Thursday in the central market building.
Savage took time to speak with this newspaper about the study.
What have people pitched so far?
We’ve heard some real creative ideas. We’re hearing a lot of smart, thoughtful ideas. We’ve heard everything from, let’s have people come by water taxi and gondola to the ByWard Market, but overwhelmingly what we’re getting so far is that there should be more space for people in the ByWard Market. People are telling us that for them it means maybe pedestrian-only zones, maybe it’s wider sidewalks, more spaces to sit to enjoy and to relax and enjoy art and performance. People are telling us they would like to see woonerfs, like a living shared space that’s flexible for different modes of travel. People have been very forthcoming and very thoughtful with us.
What’s your project budget?
The project budget is $600,000 and this reflects that it’s a complex, robust process and deliverable.
The project will wrap up at the end of 2019. Why will it take so long?
It really speaks to the complexity of the project. We’re being very comprehensive here, as you can see with the multiple engagement techniques and tactics to reach a wide variety of people. We’re asking our consultants to not only come up with a cohesive vision for the area and the conceptual plans, but we’re getting them to hit the ground with their functional design of all the spaces. What that means is, once endorsed by council and once funding is secured for implementation, we’ll get to move very smoothly from their designs to the detailed design phase.
So at the end of 2019 people can expect to see pictures or a vision of some kind?
They will certainly expect to see the vision and the direction for the whole area. They will also see drawings to a functional design level of all public spaces in the study area.
Will it include the ByWard Market central building and Clarence Street parking and retail building?
They are city assets. We have a key stakeholder with Ottawa Markets and so they are engaged in our process. Right now we’re focusing on assets like the streets, the sidewalks, the courtyards, the plazas, the publicly owned garages. We haven’t focused on the internal space yet but this is where our engagement with stakeholders like Ottawa Markets really comes into play.
There have been many studies on the ByWard Market, including the Project for Public Spaces study in 2013. Are we at a time now where we can make things happen down here?
This is one of the recommendations coming from the Project for Public Spaces report, to create a public space plan. This is what we’re doing. This is why we’re here today. Certainly the time is right for this plan to move forward with priority projects.
Toon Dreessen of Architects DCA recently held his own event in the market showcasing his vision for the area. How does that plug into what your team is doing?
I think it’s really valuable to have professionals like Toon, who is volunteering his time and his efforts and his expertise to put forward his own vision for the area. I think it speaks to how much he loves the ByWard Market and I know a lot of people do as well. Although that project is not affiliated with our project, we are considering his ideas.
If people are interested in finding out more information about the project, where can they go?
I would very much encourage people to get in touch with us. They can find more information at ottawa.ca/designbyward. We have more information about what we’re doing and how to get involved. I would encourage people to reach out.
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