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Is the Downtown Streetscape Study Killing Downtown Oakville

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Is the Downtown Streetscape Study Killing Downtown Oakville
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Nolan A Machan

Nolan A Machan

Nolan Machan is the Publisher of OakvilleNews.Org and has over 41 years of local Oakville knowledge. He is committed to providing Oakville residents with the most up-to-date information about our great town.

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Over the past few years, town council with Mayor Rob Burton at the helm, decided that since Lakeshore Road East from Navy to Allan needed to be dug up, that this would be a perfect time to rejuvenate the streetscape of Downtown Oakville.

This entailed hiring engineers, planners, consultants for the entire downtown, since it was believed to be the right time to look at the entire downtown at one time, so a cultural study was implemented as well.

The plan kept morphing from the necessary changes into “what if we did this” scenario, all the while using tax payers money and town resources. So now the plan includes changing all the streetscapes, creating flexible streets – ie ones with out curbs (Navy & George above Lakeshore), to changing one way streets to two way streets, adding dedicated bike lanes, and sharrows. It was also decided that we should repurpose all the culture facilities in Centennial Square, create an Art Gallery and Central Library in the old Post Office Building. The price tag for all of these ideas ranges from $35,000,000 to over $100,000,000.

There is no denying that the infrastructure lying beneath Lakeshore Road needs to be replaced. Like most things it has a due date and it has been reached. However, almost all the necessary work that must be done underground is not the responsibility of the Town of Oakville, but rather it is the responsibility of Halton Region, the utility companies, and telecom companies.  The town is responsible for the road bed which also must be replaced.

What was supposed to be a final report to town council by planning for the Downtown Streetscape and Transportation study on March 11, turned into even more changes. This is all happening as downtown Oakville’s vacancy rates hit an all-time high. Even the Toronto Star wrote an article about the decline of Downtown Oakville.

Two bike groups made presentations that sharrows along Lakeshore were just not enough for the biking community, even though dedicated bike lanes would be available on Church and Robinson streets. Then we heard from a couple of businesses who are extremely concerned about parking and are advocating a parking garage which is supposedly going to cost $23,000,0000. The garage is not in the 10 year capital budget, nor is the replacement of Lakeshore. That will not be decided until this fall. The only thing that is in the capital budget is for detailed engineering drawings for Lakeshore Road.

When Councillor and Budget Chair Tom Adams asked if the cost of $9,000,000 was for the entire project, he was told that it is only for replacing Lakeshore Road, and that there is no budget for the rest of the plan. Those extra changes which have been designed may in fact never happen.

The final report was made available to the public the Friday before the meeting, which did not give people adequate time to look at the full report. Even the Director of the Downtown Oakville BIA indicated that the newly elected board wanted more time to look through the recommendations.

Finally, we heard from just one landlord, who clearly indicated that he was getting major tenants walking away from his properties, because they felt there wasn’t enough foot traffic and that would be alleviated by creating adequate parking. The landlord also cited that another major deterrent  was due to the fact that there is no definite time table for the start and completion of the reconstruction of Lakeshore Road. It appears that landlords and retailers need to have a time line before prospective tenants will sign a lease.

After three and a half hours no decision was reached by council, other than more meetings would be required which have been set for April  13 and possibly 14, 2015 at Town Hall.

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