The city plans to spend nearly $1 million to transform downtown St. Albert into Western Canada’s premier outdoor art and botanic gallery by closing streets to vehicle traffic later this spring, according to a leaked report obtained by the Gazette.
According to a document entitled “Cultivating Walkability,” council discussed the issue during an in-camera session last month.
The plan involves making downtown a pedestrian friendly destination by closing Perron Street and St. Thomas Street to traffic. St. Anne Street will also close to traffic, save for the portion from Sir Winston Churchill Avenue to St. Albert Place to provide access to the central parking lot, which will remain open.
“If St. Albert is to establish its brand as Alberta’s botanic arts city, bold decisions must be made and bold actions taken,” the report states. “Nowhere is this more critical than in the downtown.”
According to the report, additional parking will be made available at the city’s Village Landing transit station. A free shuttle will be available to transport people between the transit centre and downtown.
Council has budgeted $900,000 to purchase numerous works of outdoor art and extensive plantings that will be showcased along Perron Street. The plan is to take the funds from the stabilization reserve.
A public request for proposals will solicit submissions for artwork by April 30, with each to be reviewed according to St. Albert’s art in public places policy.
The scheme would be subject to formal council approval after a public hearing sometime later this month. The gallery and greenery would be installed in mid-June to coincide with the opening of the outdoor farmers’ market on June 18.
The plan is a departure from the steps outlined in the downtown area redevelopment plan (DARP), which council approved last fall. That plan was influenced by several downtown task force meetings spearheaded by Mayor Nolan Crouse.
Those task force meetings generated numerous suggestions to close downtown streets but those ideas were not adopted by the previous city council.
The report does not state what prompted the change in direction. Crouse was not immediately available for comment.
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