"Flex street" concept greeted with enthusiasm, doubt (con't)

Councillor Phil Squire thinks it’s only the latest of attempts to revitalize the downtown, past efforts worth tens of millions of dollars only partly paying off. 

Reflecting on how many of his constituents feel, he said, “I think people are now looking at it a little bit from the point of view of downtown fatigue."

Altogether the cost to transforming the major retail street – traditionally London's “high street” and which council wants to reestablish as its most prominent street-  four blocks to the Thames River and renamed Dundas Place – will be almost $16 million.

“I think people are just getting to the point where they want to know how it’s going to change downtown, Squire said.

Under the flex street concept the street is redesigned so it can be quickly changed to carry both vehicles or be a people place much like a plaza.

The pavement can have attractive imprinted designs and the curbs are eliminated.

They’re replaced by poles that can be moved to create a sidewalk effect when vehicle traffic is allowed or opened up for an exclusive pedestrian space.

The idea is to create a place where street fairs and buskers can intermingle with lots of pedestrians.

Dundas Street is already heavily retailed with shops and restaurants.

But it has been lagging and council believes the key to revitalizing the entire city is by transforming the thoroughfare.

Squire, who “reluctantly” supported the concept – “I’m not convinced it’s going to make a monumental difference in our downtown” - also was worried about cost.

Sixty per cent of the $16 million will be spent on subsurface infrastructure upgrades.

“It has nothing to do with the flex aspect,” he said.

Squire said anytime there are infrastructure projects it costs major bucks.

“Every time you do a project you have to do an environmental assessment and those are very expensive,” he said.

“Then you have to go ahead and do all the designs and in my experience cities pay top bucks to get stuff done.

“I’m from the private sector, it’s just something that I’ve experienced.

“You get used to it after a little while – reluctantly – but they talk about millions as if they’re hundreds - infrastructure is a big expense,” he said. 

But just like the overwhelming number of London city councilors who enthusiastically backed the idea, Windsor councillor Chris Holt – an advocate of pedestrian-friendly streets and a vibrant downtown – jumped at the idea.

“That’s some brilliant stuff there,” he said, noting the concept had never come up in Windsor.

Holt said his personal pick for a flex street site would be along the river or a link from downtown to the river.

“I would have to say Riverside Drive between the casino and the AGW,” he said.

Holt called the flex street idea a “transition space meant to blur the lines between the pedestrian realm and that of the motorist.

“It would also do wonders to join our downtown to our waterfront, accomplishing many of the same goals that London is trying to do.”


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