“Is this what we want to spend our money on?” said Barry Libby, owner of Final Chapter Books. “Shouldn’t the public have some say?”
The $750,000 proposal, designed by van der Zalm and Associates Inc. from Langley, would see the area mid-block between Fourth and Fifth Avenue, and between George and Dominion Street become a park and transit exchange. The design allows for main access from either Fourth or Fifth Avenue and would also incorporate urban greenway access from George Street and from Dominion Street.
“The function of the transit exchange reflects the natural and shifting dynamic of the river’s ebb and flow and the formation of ice,” according to the design concept statement presented to council. “People gather, wait, and move through the space in a chaotic but structured way. The forms of the park, alluding to the angular cracks, fractal crystallization, and hard-edged patterns of ice, form a flexible but resilient threshold for a variety of interactions and uses that support both a park and a transit exchange. The forms, more defined along the transit exchange give way to a larger and greener open space that emphasizes a freer range of uses. This also allows the use and character of the plaza to remain flexible, shifting as the surrounding city, urban form, and programming continues to evolve.”
The plan was developed through consultation with city staff to “ensure that the design concept met the goals and directives of the city’s intent for a downtown city green space as collected through the consultation in the Smart Growth on Ground Downtown Prince George Concept Plan.” It was always part of the original plan with the design centre. The city hired van der Zalm and Associates Inc., whose recent work involved the design for the Canada Games Plaza, to develop the plan.
“That park is not going to bring people downtown,” said Libby. “I I don’t think it’s going to revitalize downtown … They’re just shoving it down people’s throats.”
Libby said prior to the issue surfacing on city council’s agenda this week, downtown businesses were not apprised of the plan. He did, however, attend a public information session on the proposal. In addition, safety will be a definite concern.
“Are they going to feel safe in this park?” Libby said. “Are they going to have a policeman there 24/7? We never see them downtown.”
Libby isn’t the only one who is concerned about the safety.
“Some of the property owners in the immediate area are quite surprised by this,” said Coun. Brian Skakun. “I think it’s a great thing for downtown. My concern is that is if we don’t have RCMP enforcement, people won’t feel safe going down there … No use doing all this work unless we have some sort of plan with the RCMP.”
Coun. Terri McConnachie added she has received some “pushback” on the plan.
“There’s no doubt we have social issues, the reasons are very complex and the answers even more-so,” McConnachie said. “Unfortunately, there’s also a criminal element that thrives in that environment.”
However, she, and council, felt the project was worthwhile and should proceed.
Last year the city revamped Millenium Park on the corner of First Avenue and George Street which involved a reduction in size to the berm, removal of trees and replacement of low shrubbery and trees, in an attempt to reduce criminal activity in the area.