. . . transform the downtown area into a destination rather than a thoroughfare.
– St. Anne Street Realignment – Stage 1
The recent open house held by the city regarding the St. Anne Street realignment was informative although it wasn’t until I got home and read the background literature that I realized the full scope of the project. As they say, “The devil is in the details.”
In general, I have been supportive of the Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan – it has the potential to expand our downtown core and will disperse traffic to some extent. However, the fact remains that there are only two streets connecting Grandin, Riel, and Heritage Park to the larger commercial district of St. Albert north of the Sturgeon River. These are also vital connectors to the Sturgeon Hospital and two of our high schools.
The narrowing of St. Anne Street does not a destination make. The civic library and the Arden theatre may be an occasional destination for some but to create a true St. Albert destination the development of the civic square is a must. We need to create consumer-friendly shops, restaurants, coffee shops and wine bars in the downtown core. Development of this destination must come first. The realignment of St. Anne Street will not create or even help to transform the downtown into a people place. Narrowing of St. Anne Street will only create increased congestion and frustration for everyone.
The roundabout is a great idea but it must be two lanes to accommodate the traffic. The addition of truck aprons is counter-productive – if anything we need to discourage large trucks from entering the downtown core. Truck traffic is only necessary to service downtown businesses and other downtown amenities, and this requires smaller delivery vehicles, not semi trailers. Through truck traffic should only use alternate routes such as St. Albert Trail and Ray Gibbons Drive.
Let’s get down to creating the destination, right now! I note in a previous article in the Gazette, the 10-year capital plan has the development of a parking structure and the civic square several years down the road. These are the two key pieces of infrastructure that are necessary to attract people downtown. Millennium Park, while a nice feature is not a priority, it can be developed anytime, but a parking structure and civic square must be priorities if we truly want to create a destination.
This is certainly not the first time I’ve harped on the need for the development of the civic square as a partially enclosed European style plaza with consumer friendly businesses and ground floor coffee houses with outdoor seating. This type of atmosphere will attract our resident population to come downtown and also create a reason for visitors to the farmers’ market to stick around and enjoy the afternoon in our lovely city.
Let’s move forward on development of the civic plaza – we’ve been talking about it for 30 years, now is the time for action.
Ken Allred is a former St. Albert Alderman and MLA.