A full or partial closure of Steele Street between Second Avenue and Front Street is being contemplated by City of Whitehorse staff as planning continues for a new city services building.
Three possibilities for the new building and a retrofit to Whitehorse City Hall were presented to council members at a council and senior management meeting May 2.
In all three scenarios at least a portion of the street was closed in favour of green space and a relocated cenotaph.
The project is part of the city’s overall building consolidation work that will see city staffers in a number of buildings around town moved to new and renovated sites including the new operations building off Range Road that’s expected to open later this year, a new firehall in the Motorways area set to be built next year and the services building.
Transit staff is slated to move up to the new operations building as well with parks and recreation staff expected to move into the transit building in Marwell after that. Operational staff and equipment will also be housed in the new operations building.
Meanwhile, staff from land and building services, sustainability and economic development and IT will move to the city services building.
To make room for the services building the current firehall next to city hall is expected to be demolished once the new firehall is open.
During the meeting, local architect Antonio Zedda presented council with the three potential options for the new services building.
One featured a complete closure of Steele Street between Second Avenue and Front Street with the services building constructed as a complete stand-alone structure where a city parking lot now sits across from city hall at Second Avenue and Steele Street.
That proposal would see a parking lot put in where the current firehall is along with a heating plant for city hall. Steele Street would be shut down in favour of green space, a walkway and a cenotaph located between the two buildings.
The federal and territorial governments recently announced funding for the services building as well as a retrofit to city hall.
As Zedda explained, that funding will allow the energy efficient retrofits to city hall to be incorporated in the other options with a facade that would connect the building with the new services building at the site of the current firewall.
One option is more of an L shape with the entire new building at the firehall site while the other would be built partially on that site with another part built in front of city hall on Steele Street, with a connection between the two parts of the new structure.
All the options include a public transit shelter with washrooms as part of the services building, access to city hall coming from Steele Street and a new cenotaph in the green space that would extend from city hall into part of the current street.
Those two options connecting city hall and the services building would create more of a centre — “one new kind of campus” as Zedda described — for the city.
In each of those two options, a large green space with the cenotaph would be featured along the current part of Steele Street in front of city hall, making Steele a one-way street in that portion.
The sketches also show the services buildings at three storeys each, though Zedda suggested officials may want to contemplate the possibility of putting in a fourth floor that could either be rented out or built as a shell to be available when more space is needed in the future.
“The idea is you’re building capacity,” he said.
The four council members at the meeting — Jocelyn Curteanu, Dan Boyd, Steve Roddick and Jan Stick — voiced their preferences largely for the second and third options that incorporate the two buildings in one facade.
As members highlighted, those options will allow drivers to keep using Steele Street — which Stick described as “critical” for the area — while also creating more green space for city hall and an improved location for the cenotaph.
Curteanu suggested the third option appears to be more efficient in tying the buildings together with Roddick also stating his preference for the wrap-around effect of the design.
City manager Linda Rapp said the discussion from the meeting will be factored into continued planning for the services building and upgrades to city hall.
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