On December 3, Belleville residents and staff came together on Front Street to celebrate the street’s reopening after the first phase of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Project, a multi-year renewal of Belleville’s downtown infrastructure and public streetscape.
Designed by Office for Responsive Environments with LEA Consulting Engineers, the Downtown Revitalization Project combines the replacement or upgrade of most of the municipal and private utility infrastructure in the downtown with a modernized streetscape design that will improve the pedestrian environment and atmosphere of the city’s retail core.
Phase 1 of the rebuild stretches more than 500 m along Front Street and Station Street, from Victoria Avenue to Church Street. Future phases will reconstruct the remainder of Front Street as well as the five side streets that cross it, for a total project distance of 1.8 km.
Both the underground and streetscape work are seen as prerequisites for reinvestment in downtown properties and for a variety of proposed new development projects that are expected to move forward over the next few years. The municipal watermain beneath Front Street dated to the 1880s, while the streetscape was last replaced in the early 1980s and had not aged well over the ensuing decades. Replacement of the watermain, sections of storm and sanitary sewer, and installation of additional private utility ducts has necessitated the complete reconstruction of the street and sidewalk throughout most of the project area.
ORE’s new street layout and pavement and planter designs provide a more attractive and accessible streetscape, including more generous sidewalks that should encourage attendance downtown for shopping and special events. New planters group trees in tighter clusters to maximize their visual impact, and pair them with understory plantings that provide visual interest through colour, shape and flowers throughout the season. The street employs a mix of pavement surfaces, including extensive unit pavements and concrete and asphalt road surfaces, that complement the downtown built heritage and emphasize the district as a special place of value for the community.
The project’s design phase, carried out in 2014, included extensive public consultation, outreach and engagement activities, as well as the design and construction of three “kickstart” sites demonstrating material approaches before they were implemented on Belleville’s main street. The next phase of construction will be tendered in Winter 2016.
“It feels great. So many people are so happy to see it finally come to fruition. A lot of people have to see it completed before they actually see exactly what it is that we were trying to accomplish. I think the people of this city will be very proud to be associated with this work.”
- Mark Fluhrer, City of Belleville Director of Recreation, Culture and Community Services