The City of Duncan wants the public to get involved in creating concepts and plans for the Whistler Street area and the old Red Balloon property at 85 Station St.
The city is inviting community members to participate in a series of free workshops, with the first one kicking off on Feb. 28 at the Cowichan campus of Vancouver Island University, that will envision the future of Whistler Street and 85 Station St.
Mark Lakeman, a principal of the Portland-based architecture and planning firm Communitecture and a co-founder of the City Repair Project, was chosen by the City of Duncan in September to conduct a public placemaking design project for the property and the street, and he will begin the series of workshops at 7 p.m. at VIU’s lecture theatre on Feb. 28.
Focusing on the idea of placemaking, which refers to a collaborative process by which people can shape their public spaces in order to maximize shared values, Lakeman will discuss the art and science of designing public places to prepare for the upcoming participatory design workshops.
Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples said Lakeman has been visiting the Valley for the past 20 years and has presented some of his placemaking strategies to the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
She said some of the strategies Lakeman has developed along with the community in Portland to deal with housing issues around homelessness and addictions have had some success in the Oregon city.
“He has come up with ideas around different types of housing for young people, seniors, and other groups based on their housing needs,” Staples said.
“Whistler Street is facing all kinds of challenges so we want to look at how we’re utilizing space there to better deal with safety and other issues. As for 85 Station St., it’s not often that cities have parks space like that in its downtown core. We need to determine what we want to do with it, so we’re looking for ideas so we can make it into something that we all can build together. It belongs to all of us.”
The workshops regarding 85 Station St. will be held on Feb. 29 and April 25, at the Duncan Fire Hall, located at 468 Duncan St. with both running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The workshops about Whistler Street will be held on March 1 and April 26, also at the Duncan Fire Hall with both running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The workshops will guide community members through interactive exercises to identify site-specific issues and opportunities.
The final concepts will be presented to city council at its meeting on June 15 at 6 p.m.
In a report to council in September, Duncan’s CAO Peter de Verteuil said that the city is experiencing issues of public disorder along the Trans Canada Highway corridor, and in particular in the area of Whistler Street.
He said the alignment and orientation of buildings, lack of pedestrian opportunities, and limited landscaping in the area doesn’t provide a welcoming environment for most customers and members of the public.
As for 85 Station St., de Verteuil reminded council that the city became its owner last year after the property was not redeemed at tax sale due to the large outstanding tax balance that was a result of the demolition of the building through the city’s “remedial action requirement” process.
The old building was ordered to be torn down by the city in 2014 after a backhoe accidentally struck it in 2009, causing significant damage.
The city took over possession of the site after its previous owner didn’t pay the costs of tearing down the building, which was approximately $400,000.