The first step in a “fresh start” for Johnston Road is underway, as the City of White Rock hosted a community workshop this week seeking public input into a revitalization project for the uptown roadway.
The Wednesday evening workshop saw around 50 residents and business owners divide into several groups and ponder the question: “What makes Johnston Road unique?”
Eric Shaw, the city’s manager of planning, told the crowd prior to splitting into groups that making the town centre a “vibrant destination” was one of city council’s strategic priorities, and improving Johnston Road was the first step towards making the area a “success.”
“This is a turning of the page, it’s a new start for Johnston Road,” Shaw said. “We want to hear from you about your ideas, thoughts, concerns and most of all your aspirations for what Johnston Road can become.”
The focus of the study, Shaw said, is a three-block stretch from North Bluff Road to Roper Avenue, with improvements centred on what he described as the “public realm” – including sidewalks, the roadway, intersections, crosswalks and light standards.
“But we’re also interested in how the private realm, the buildings, interface with that public realm as well,” Shaw noted.
This week’s workshop isn’t the first time the public has been invited to weigh in on Johnston Road improvements.
In 2014, a ‘reconstruction and beautification’ task force was established to improve safety along the corridor and upgrade the gateway to the city.
Preliminary plans were brought to an open house in July that year that looked at removing the crosswalk just south of North Bluff Road, taking out trees along the sidewalks and reducing vehicular access to Central Plaza.
The proposed changes were met with criticism from area businesses and residents alike. Peace Arch News was told prior to the 2014 civic election that further draft plans would be made public in early 2015.
Shaw said Wednesday that past studies and consultations would be considered throughout the redesign process.
Workshop participants this week had an aerial image of the area in question on each of their tables. After those taking part had an opportunity to discuss within their groups their basic thoughts and concerns about the stretch of road, the city-hired landscape architect took the floor to address some preliminary observations about the area.
Daryl Tyacke, of Eckford Tyacke and Associates, pointed out a number of problems along the Johnston Road sidewalks that make the area difficult to navigate, especially for pedestrians with mobility issues.
Trees with overgrown roots, curb barriers that act as tripping hazards, obstacles such as sandwich boards and drainage issues were all highlighted as problematic on both the east and west sides of the road.
“These are all addressable issues,” Tyacke said, noting that overall congestion – including pedestrians, cyclists, scooters, buses and other vehicles – is a concern.
“Everybody’s vying for a piece of that street to get around on, and it’s really not working.”
The city now plans to host an open house in the spring where staff will present conceptual designs for feedback.
Shaw said detailed designs are expected to be completed by the summer, followed by project and budget approval from council later in the year.
Additional information on the project – as well as an online survey – is available on the city’s website at www.whiterockcity.ca