Council was presented with three options for streetscape design finishes for Huntsville’s Main Street as part of the road construction project next spring—each with a different price tag.
The presentation was made by EXP engineering, architecture and design consultants Les Ranta and Sally Wang, who were accompanied at Huntsville Council’s Feb. 24 meeting by Mark Driscoll from the District of Muskoka.
The Main Street streetscape redesign is part of a larger road construction project being undertaken by the District of Muskoka in partnership with the Town of Huntsville in order to rebuild underground water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure, reconstruct the roadway, and conduct minor maintenance on the swing bridge, while enhancing the downtown streetscape at a cost to be borne by the Town.
Work on Huntsville’s Main Street is scheduled to begin in the early spring of 2021.
The options presented to council included the type of paving materials to be used for roadways and vehicle parking areas as well as sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian amenity areas.
The streetscape redesign would start at the swing bridge and run westward to Lorne Street. It encompasses Main Street and any of the adjacent feeder streets and pedestrian areas forming part of downtown Main Street, according to Ranta. He also said additional considerations in the options presented include Kent Park, a Lorne Street gateway, the King Street pedestrian walkway, and civic square.
Flex parking is being proposed as part of the streetscape redesign which would allow parking, and also the reconfiguration of the parking spaces for storefront and pedestrian use. Other prominent features involve what’s being referred to as ‘Muskoka Moments’, which would feature places where people can sit, perhaps enjoy some greenery indigenous to the area, and features such as Muskoka chairs and awnings.
Ranta and Wang presented a general overview of the options, with option one being a standard asphalt road surface and concrete sidewalks, painted lines at the pedestrian crosswalk in front of civic square, a modified Muskoka feature at the Lorne Street gateway, and concrete pavers at Kent Park. That option would be the most economical at $2 million.
A second option was presented at $3 million which would include more ‘Muskoka Moments’ amenities and some trees, crosswalks would be upgraded from painted lines to imprinted asphalt, Kent Park would have concrete pavers and a kiosk, the Lorne Street gateway would be more enhanced, and the King Street pedestrian walkway and civic square would include patterned concrete pavers, among some of the changes.
A third option was presented at $4.8 million which would feature a significant Lorne Street gateway, ‘Muskoka Moments’ surfaces would be made of concrete pavers, granite pavers would be used for the King Street pedestrian walkway and civic square, Kent Park would include a water feature, and trees with soil cells underneath would line the street beside the flex parking spaces.
Ranta also noted that council could choose a hybrid design, pulling specific features from each one of the options.
Councillor Tim Withey asked that a cost break down be included for the various features presented in order to make it easier to pick and choose. He also said he’d like to see more crosswalks along Main Street, possibly by Pharmasave. “We get people just running across the street at all places, all the time, so I like the feature in front of Town Hall but I think we can use a couple more of those,” he said.
Trees were of particular importance for Councillor Bob Stone. “So here is what happens with these projects all the time. It starts off gorgeous, everybody wants it, and we end up having something wholly mediocre because of budget. This is the showpiece for our town. This is our face to the public, so I feel we need to do it right. Don’t kill the finances in order to do it but … it is the most important thing in our town when people come to visit and this is what they see. So we need to do it right,” he said. Stone added that soil cells in order to “get large, full-grown trees is imperative. That is what Muskoka is all about so if we can’t have the big trees, like the old town feel, then that’s a real problem for me.”
He asked if savings could be realized by foregoing the granite features suggested and asked what the difference in price would be.
Wang said the difference between granite and concrete pavers would be about 50 per cent more for imported granite and about three to four times more for pavers containing local granite.
Councillor Nancy Alcock echoed some of Stone’s comments. “This is a showcase for us… I don’t really want to nickel and dime it because it is going to be a showcase,” she said, adding that she’d like to see the space as pedestrian-oriented as possible. She dismissed option one referring to it as “mediocre” but said she’d be okay without a “big, flashy entrance into the town, not a big one for me, so that’s like a whole lot of money [saved], easy.”
Councillor Jonathan Wiebe was particularly concerned with the functionality of Kent Park. “I think seating is important, being able to just linger in our downtown I think is really important, because right now that space does the opposite, it kind of chases you along versus making it a social space that’s designed for everyone.”
A public information session on the streetscape options will be held on March 3, 2020, at Partners Hall between 6 and 7:30 p.m. with a formal presentation taking place at 6:15 p.m. Public comments will also be received online from March 4 to 16 at engagemuskoka.ca in order to help the consultants put together a preferred design option.
You can find more information about the downtown streetscape project here.
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