Queen Street redesign to tackle laneways, green spaces

The suggested design would enhance ‘lingering spaces’ in the city

CBC News Posted: Aug 21, 2017

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The ‘showpiece’ of the project, is Vogelsang Green, which would include an amphitheatre, green lawn, and enhanced space for performances and festivals. (City of Kitchener)

The Queen Street Placemaking plan is set to give downtown Kitchener a facelift.

“Placemaking is about turning those unutilized spaces into great memorable places for people,” said Brandon Sloan, Manager of long range and policy planning with the City of Kitchener.

The new and improved plan has four main components on Queen between Duke and Charles Streets, and will be reviewed by city council August 21, with the work planned for 2019.

The plan could cost the city almost $900,000 to complete, plus another $1 million to repair base infrastructure.

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The plan will aim to make use of ‘under-utilized’ space at Queen and Charles, which consists of a small grass patch and a parking lot. (Clare Bonnyman/CBC)

Greener, brighter, better

The main showpiece is the development of Vogelsang Green at the corner of Queen and Duke, while the other components focus on restructuring the street itself, building up the laneways around it, and turning city owned land at Queen and Charles Street into a ‘people-first plaza.’

“What sets a city apart from another is the character of its streets. Queen Street has that historic main street feel.”

The redesign will focus around pedestrian friendly additions, “look at having wider decorative sidewalks, looking at improving the lighting,” said Sloan.

Vogelsang Green will be re-envisioned with an amphitheatre and a green lawn, creating an enhanced space for public events, festivals, performances and culture.

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While not a pedestrian dedicated space, the redesign is set to have wider sidewalks and better lighting for those on foot. (City of Kitchener)

It’s something that is long overdue for the “hidden little gem,” said Sloan, who hopes the redesign will introduce residents to the green who don’t already use it.

Linger-worthy laneways

Sloan says by redesigning the laneways in the area, it will open up new spaces to the city’s residents, creating more environments and public spaces, mirroring cities from around the world.

“As we grow, we need to provide these additional spaces for people at all different times of seasons, different times of day,” he said.

‘As we grow, we need to provide these additional spaces for people at all different times of seasons, different times of day’.– Brandon Sloan, City of Kitchener

It’s a foreign concept, but Sloan hopes that these spaces will be used to get outside and eat lunch, to walk home from work, or to take a walk through the city.

They are spaces one wouldn’t normally consider “lingering” in but hopefully that will chance.

“The laneways are a great opportunity.”

Challenging choreography

As far as the balance of traffic, people and cyclists, Sloan says that’s the biggest challenge so far.

“You’ve got all these competing interests,” said Sloan, who says due to the necessity of snow plows and emergency responders, the street will remain open to vehicles.

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Sloan says the city wants to make use of the laneways along the corridor, creating spaces to linger and have lunch in downtown. (City of Kitchener)

While public feedback was asking for a closed-off pedestrian street, he said it’s not practical, but the focus will remain on creating a space for people.

“We still want to have wider sidewalks and other infrastructure for people and cyclists,” he said.

Sloan said all the benefits of this redesign, economic, environmental, social and otherwise, point to a positive development for the city as a whole. And that’s the most important thing when it comes to a shiny new Queen Street.

“To support the growth and incent the growth of people working, living, shopping and visiting in the downtown,” he said. “This project will help towards our future success.”

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