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Claire’s Take: Elgin Promenade, and of course parking

Parking. At almost every public meeting that I’ve attended with Councillor Marianne Meed Ward, there is a discussion about how the parking in the area will be impacted, followed by more concerns about parking in general. On May 2 at the Martini House, Marianne and I joined about 25-30 downtown business owners, as well as members from the Burlington Downtown Business Association, and City Transportation and Parks and Recreation staff to discuss the Elgin Street promenade.

Elgin-Promenade-Draft-March-2-2016-e1457313204333The first phase of the promenade is resurfacing Parking Lot #1. As the questions about loss of parking spaces began to roll in, Marianne announced that there would actually be a net zero loss. Yes, seven spaces in Lot #1 will be lost, but all seven will be replaced in Lot #4.

To be honest, I was somewhat surprised that there’d be a solution that wouldn’t create such a drastic change for parking in that area. Concerns about the construction workers taking up all the spaces in the east end when the promenade is being built were also expressed. It was then discussed that Marianne is working with the city staff regarding this concern. An idea is that construction workers would be encouraged to park in the Locust St parking garage.

I understand how the business owners in the east end area are feeling about having their customer’s parking spaces being taken away, and I’d be a little ticked too if I were in their situation. It’s inevitable that the construction workers have to park somewhere, but I’m sure that something can be done to ensure that both parties are content.

The promenade will also be 5 m in width to accommodate people traveling in both directions, whether walking, rollerblading, or in a wheelchair. An occurrence that I noticed from people that I know and others in the community is that the Elgin Promenade is being perceived as another bike path. It will be connected to the Centennial Bikeway, however it wasn’t intended only for cyclists to use this promenade.

Pedestrians who may not live directly in the downtown who have access to the Centennial Bikeway will have a way of reaching all the shops and amenities. Speaking from experience, if I want to walk downtown, I don’t enjoy walking on major streets that are busy with traffic.

A topic that came up at the meeting was the beautification of our downtown. For sure, I’m all for making our downtown look like a pleasant area to spend time and not like an unwelcoming concrete jungle. I admire that our downtown has some character and isn’t just a cookie-cutter place.

I realize that I sound sort of like a stickler here, but the downtown also needs to have functionality to it as well as beauty. Maybe our parking garage on Locust doesn’t look like the most spectacular building, but it can and does serve a good purpose. As I looked through the information sheet that was handed out, I read that one ash tree that is infected by the Emerald Ash Borer needs to be cut down, and it’s possible that one or two more trees have to be cut down as well. Since the promenade is being built above a gas pipeline, new trees may not be able to be replaced, however some low vegetation and shrubs will be replanted.

I also had the opportunity to attend the Downtown Parking Committee (DPC) meeting on Thursday May 5th with Marianne. A couple of business owners from the Monday business meeting also attended the DPC. The DPC meeting gave more insight and better answers to questions about the promenade, which I felt helped with clearing the air about this project. We discussed making sure that parking spaces would be available during the construction process of the promenade, which rolled into the pay-by-plate parking.

After both meetings, I felt reassured that this project can be carried in a way that will satisfy both the business owners in the east end as well as city staff and planners.

What's your take?