1. What’s an Urban Design Strategy?
An Urban Design Strategy is a master plan for the public realm. Nelson’s plan will provide a comprehensive vision for downtown, as well as a visual toolkit complete with design strategies for the different elements of the public realm including signage, outdoor patios, lighting, public art, street furniture, amenity areas, bike parking, electric vehicle charging stations, a public washroom, and landscaping. The final strategy will also establish priorities, as well as identifying funding opportunities and clarifying timelines implementation.
2. Why is the City of Nelson doing an Urban Design Strategy?
Nelson’s Official Community Plan identifies Baker Street as the commercial and cultural heart of our community and Council is committed to working with the local businesses and residents to ensure that it continues to be a vibrant and active place in the future. With a vision and a detailed plan for the public realm, Council will be better positioned to invest in enhancements and maintenance over time, thus ensuring that the physical, social, and economic attributes of our downtown are looked after in the long-term.
Like other parts of the city, underground infrastructure in the downtown area is nearing the end of its life cycle and it will need to be replaced in the coming years. An Urban Design Strategy will ensure that Council is prepared to roll out public realm improvements in coordination with these infrastructure upgrades. This coordination will help to minimize disruptions to local businesses, residents and visitors.
Council has identified a number of priorities for downtown including new requirements for signage and sidewalk patios, as well as responding to immediate safety concern related to aging light standards in the downtown area. Rather than deal with these issues individually, the City has embarked on a process that will result in a comprehensive vision for the public realm, as well as strategic direction on the individual elements.
3. What is the process for creating an Urban Design Strategy?
The City, in partnership with MVH Urban Planning and Design, will deliver a planning process that will be completed in four phases:
Phase One (Apr – May) – The project team will assess the current conditions and opportunities for downtown. There will be stakeholder and community workshops as part of this phase.
Phase Two (May-Jun) – The project team will compile the information and feedback gathered in phase one and they will start to prepare content for the strategy, including details on the individual components of the public realm. Phase two will include a three-day design charrette, called Design Fest, which will be an opportunity for stakeholders and the community to participate in visualizing and refining ideas to be included in the strategy.
Phase Three (Jun-Aug) – The project team, with the help of a Selkirk College summer student, will ‘take the strategy to the streets’ through a series of ‘pop-up’ displays that will invite idea testing and feedback from the public.
Phase Four (Sept-Nov) – The project team will consolidate the design and policy directions into a report with high-level costing. There will be an open house and implementation workshop in phase four that will help to define priorities, timing, funding, and support for the strategy. The community will have an opportunity to review and comment on the draft strategy. The final strategy will be presented to Council in late November or early December.
4. What is urban design?
Urban design is the process of shaping the public realm – giving it form, reinforcing its character, and making it a place for people to enjoy and connect with their community. Through urban design, we explore how people move through the space (transportation systems), and we investigate the different services and amenities that add character, and also contribute to the liveability and sustainability of a place over time.
5. What is the public realm?
In Nelson, the public realm is comprised of the streets, sidewalks, trails, and open spaces. From a functional point of view these things form the structure of our city and the framework in which development parcels relate. Within the public realm, we can expect to find a number of elements that help us in our daily lives, such as street furniture, lighting, landscaping and greenery, signage, patios, and amenities.
6. What is the budget for this project?
The budget for this project is $50,000. The money is set aside in Development Services’ annual budget for policy projects. It is part of the City’s general operating budget.
7. How does this project relate to other projects in the city, such as Stores to Shores and the Railtown Sustainable Neighbourhood Plan?
All of these projects build on the vision and guidance of the Sustainable Waterfront and Downtown Master Plan (SWDMP). The Stores to Shores revitalization project on Hall Street is an initiative to re-establish important physical and visual connections between downtown and the waterfront. As part of that project, the City has committed to undertake a number of upgrades to the public realm, including adding new benches, widening sidewalks, adding new amenity spaces and landscaping, creating a public plaza, installing bike racks, and introducing new street lighting.
The Railtown Sustainable Neighbourhood Plan, to be completed this fall, focuses on neighbourhood renewal and further refining the Railtown vision that was first articulated in the SWDMP. Of the things being considered in that plan, improvements to the public realm, as well as physical and visual connections to downtown and adjacent neighbourhoods, are two key objectives.
Nelson’s downtown is located between Hall Street, to the east and Railtown, to the west. Building on the work that has been undertaken to date in these two areas, an Urban Design Strategy is the next phase in the implementation of the SWDMP.