Through the 1960s and ’70s the downtown was defined by architectural trends typical of that era, with many original facades, building exteriors and colour schemes covered over by materials deemed more modern – materials like vinyl and stucco.
All of that changed in the 1980s when Nelson became a pilot community in the National Trust for Canada’s Main Street Program. The program spurred a local movement that championed the restoration of the city’s vast inventory of heritage businesses, homes and architecture.
To this day, many signature elements of this era of revitalization are still evident, including street lighting, furniture and public amenity spaces.
While downtown Nelson still bears that wonderful legacy, 30 years have passed, and it is time once again to assess the health of the public realm, and to identify opportunities for enhancement and change. Along with upgrades to infrastructure and maintenance of important heritage values, there are new modern-day considerations to be made, like making our city more livable through sustainable design – this includes adding more bike parking and electric vehicle charging stations, as well as preparing for the impacts of extreme weather, which have implications not only for our underground sewer, water and electrical infrastructure, but also for our public realm.
What’s next for our downtown?
In an effort to further enhance Nelson’s outstanding downtown district, the City is undertaking an Urban Design Strategy, which will build on the vision and guidance of the Sustainable Waterfront and Downtown Master Plan (SWDMP), but provide a more detailed and implementation-focused vision for urban design in our downtown.
The final design document, to be rolled out later this year, will include strategies for key elements in our public realm such as signage, sidewalk patios, lighting, street furniture, bike parking, public art, landscaping and public amenities like electric vehicle charging stations and public washrooms.
Read more: The planning process