Vehicles are seen parked along Main Street in Whitehorse April 26. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News)

Whitehorse pitches new plans for downtown, Marwell

Suggestions include downtown patios, trails, safer pedestrian crossings on Second Avenue

If you’ve got thoughts about a pop-up patio pilot project in downtown Whitehorse, the city wants to hear from you.

Until May 18, public input is welcome on the city’s recently released draft plans for downtown and Marwell,which includes plans for increased patio space in the core. They also focus on trail connectivity, pedestrian safety on Second Avenue, a park and boat launch in Marwell, and a transit hub with facilities including washrooms, warming areas, a cafe, and bike storage.

The drafts are the result of roughly a year’s worth of research, said city planner Ben Campbell.

City staff conducted interviews with representatives from Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, the City of Whitehorse and the Government of Yukon, the private sector and non-profit organizations, and the public by way of workshops, pop-ups and online surveys.

The result is a list of eight big “actions” for downtown and five for Marwell. Each major action includes a number of smaller actions that will help realize the main goal.

The eight proposals for downtown include the creation of a civic/cultural block around City Hall, making a core area for arts and cultural programming, a transit station and bike storage facility, a Second Avenue corridor study, building public washrooms, adaptive re-use of waterfront heritage buildings, creating a collaborative working group to foster social wellness, and establishing a formal network of paved and unpaved trails.

The five proposals for Marwell include a Copper and Quartz Road corridor study, Tlingit Street improvements with a greenway, heavy industry relocation and remediation, a riverfront park and boat launch, and enhanced trail connections.

Campbell said many people brought up the possibility of trail improvements.

He said people largely felt that unpaved trails were just as valuable as paved trails. That kind of feedback will impact some of the recommendations from the 2007 downtown plan.

Campbell said 75 per cent of the recommendations made then have been implemented or are underway. One of these is the 2007 recommendation to pave the escarpment trail system.

That recommendation is half-complete at this point. He said that, under the new plan, the upper escarpment trail would be left unpaved, and instead maintained as a natural trail, while the lower trail would be paved for easier commuting.

Campbell said another key priority is the Second Avenue study.

He said the city received feedback that it’s important to maintain the street as a north/south artery, but he said there’s clearly a need to balance that with pedestrian safety.

“We do know that Second Avenue has very high accident rates,” he said. “We have information on collisions within the city and Second Avenue has a significant proportion of accidents that occur just on that one street. We know it’s an issue.”

Such a study would include how to accommodate vehicular traffic as well as other forms of traffic, safer east-west crossings for pedestrians, cyclists and those with mobility issues, improved left turns, and improved safety for pedestrians travelling north-south.

There are other suggestions for making people comfortable on streets and sidewalks. One of these is the plan for pop-up patios, which fall under the “arts and cultural programming” action.

Campbell said the short-term patios could make use of the ample sidewalk space, particularly along Main Street. They could also occasionally set up in parking spaces on a seasonal or temporary basis.

He said the pop-ups provide a great learning opportunity because they’re something that can be done on a small, temporary scale, so it’s easy for city staff to study and re-design it to be better in subsequent years.

The draft plans can be found online at Whitehorse.ca. The online survey can also be accessed there until May 18.

The city will also be gathering feedback at the Yukon Trade Show, at the Canada Games Centre from May 4 to 6, and at the Front Street pop-up (between the White Pass building and the Old Firehall) on May 14, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Campbell said that after the current public consultation period, the plan will go to council. He estimates that will happen around June.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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