The City held an open house last evening to explain to the public what is being done on Somerset Street this year. It was a mix of old news — the section west of Preston remains unchanged from last year except for some details — and new news for the section east of Preston up to Booth.
The new stuff comes in several formats. The consultants and city staff had all the public consultation team members on hand, with name badges, to explain what is proposed and to tell their neighbours about some of the tradeoffs that were made to get to these results. This results in a less “top-down” message and reflects the reality of the community input. Of course, this messaging won’t work unless there was genuine community involvement; the simple we-are-talking-to-you-because-we-have-to approach still used by many city teams cannot plaster a veneer over the top.
The Somerset consulting team from Delcan is working on Rideau Street (east of Dalhousie St to Cummings Bridge) next. They are continuing with their new approach. Instead of having separate technical advisory committees (the engineers, traffic boffins, sewer geeks) and a public advisory committee (those neighborhood keeners who want an intelligent city streetscape, and a BIA committee, they are rolling all of them into one advisory group. This will force a wider variety of players to understand other competing demands for the scarce city space. Should be fun.
Also new at the Somerset meeting were information boards that offered real information with some meat in it. For example, for cyclists the sharrows and bike lanes were shown with detailed measurements:
The Somerset project is the first one in the City to try planting trees on a bridge. The road rises up to cross over the O-Train cut. The lengthy approach from the east side results in a barren walking experience, cut off from buildings and exposed to winds and sun. To moderate this, the outside traffic lanes are being given over to a painted bike lane, and a series of concrete planters about 30′ long and 24″ high which will be irrigated to supply water to hardy locust trees. If this scheme works, it will make it much more attractive to walk to school or to the Plant Rec Centre:
Rather than selecting an “off-the-shelf” bench for the Chinatown portion, the team chose a plain steel back bench that will laser-cut with a decorative pattern. The designs on the bench backs — created by a local graphic designer — will be Asian-themed to reinforce the Chinatown Royal Arch designs and colours:
There will be laser-cut garbage receptacles and some granite inserts in the sidewalk with figures from the Asian zodiac.
Construction begins April 18th. The section west of Preston should be completed and landscaped by November; the area east of Preston in Chinatown will see major construction done this year and finishing landscape touches in spring 2012.