Picture Armstrong Street in Hintonburg: its narrow sidewalks, empty lots, crumbling buildings and sporadic infill.
Armstrong Street in Hintonburg could someday see a major overhaul to make it more inviting for cyclists, pedestrians and businesses.
Now imagine, instead, Armstrong remade into a bustling avenue, where cyclists, pedestrians and drivers vie for room amid planters and benches, and small businesses thrive in an affordable residential community.
Four McGill University students have done just that.
The urban planning graduate students worked with the Wellington West BIA and Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper last fall to assess Armstrong’s strengths and weaknesses and host an open house for residents.
The study comes on the heels of zoning changes the city implemented last year, which rezoned a handful of properties on and around Armstrong to make way for small businesses like pizza joints, cafes and boutiques.
But Mr. Leiper convinced the planning committee at the time to hold off on the changes until the community could develop a greater vision for the street.
The new student report is a “conversation starter” in that process, Mr. Leiper said.
He still wants to host more public consultations starting in April, and plans to bring a complete community vision to planning committee by September.
This early work makes three recommendations.
First, that the city should turn Armstrong into a “shared street” that would bury hydro lines, prioritize sustainable transportation and reduce speeds to 10 km/h for everyone. The European concept nixes sidewalks and cycle tracks in favour of a transit free-for-all among benches, trees and planters.
“You would have to go slowly because there are so many things on the road,” said study co-author Joshua Adams.
That would create foot traffic to support the study’s other recommendations, which suggest expanding small-scale commercial allowances if the initial rezoning goes well, and offering a rent subsidy for start-ups through the BIA.
The study also encourages developing on the many empty lots along the strip. If developers agreed to bury parking, they could get an extra storey above ground, the authors suggested.
BIA director Zach Dayler said his group is “pursuing that idea of incubator space” but it remains to be seen if the study’s recommendations jive with community sentiment.
“Obviously they need to be consulted way more widely,” Mr. Dayler said.
This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on Jan. 20.