Grimsby DIA offers possibilities
with creative visioning exercise
By Joanne McDonald
When life hands you lemons, re-envision your downtown.
That was the view Grimsby’s Downtown Improvement Area board of directors took over the last several months.
COVID-19 has had a major impact but other factors – current and on the immediate horizon – pushed the board to considerable possible solutions and ideas to reset the table for Grimsby’s next century.
“2022 is Grimsby’s centennial year,” said Mayor Jeff Jordan, who is also a council liaison on the DIA.
“We have growing traffic issues and with increased residential density coming this will only get more severe.”
Jordan noted the possibility of making Ontario Street one-way northbound would go a long way to alleviating congestion with no cars peeking out onto Main to make either right- or left-hand turns as well as making it safer for pedestrians since cars need to peek out into the intersection and through the crosswalk area to see if traffic is clear. With no cars waiting to turn onto Main, traffic flow for motorists looking to turn northbound will be much more smooth off of Main making the major east-west corridor flow smoother.
“If we have an opportunity to make traffic flow better and more safely, it is definitely something to consider,” said Jordan.
And consideration and forward thinking was the whole point of the DIA’s visioning exercise, said board president Mike Williscraft.
“While the reasoning for thinking about any changes is very serious, the exercise itself was a lot of fun. When you have no limitations, it is much easier to be creative,” said Williscraft.
“Council has discussed, and economic development officer Adam Joon has told me, the Town has some projects for revitalization in the works. Any project takes taxpayer money and that also is a serious thing. The changes we included in the plan have a chance to make Grimsby a unique destination downtown for 50, 75 or 100 years.”
Unlike other major undertakings municipalities often get into in their commercial areas, the DIA suggestions do not involve the Town spending a dime on property acquisitions.
“We thought it important to solely consider working with what we have – like shuffling a deck of cards. Same cards, to some degree, just in a different order,” said Williscraft.
Tim O’Brien, associate – manager, landscape architecture with consultant IBI Group, agreed.
“The streetscape improvement paints a solid picture of the potential, I think; something to stir up excitement and imagination.”
To that end, the DIA wants to hear from you, the public about what you see in the possibilities outlined or any other ideas which could help reinvent the downtown.
Email Williscraft with any ideas::
“This was purely an exercise to get people thinking while providing a base gleaned from thoughts and conversations with dozens of downtown business operators over many years,” said Williscraft.
The first look at possibilities has struck a very positive chord.
“I think having an updated, vibrant, new downtown and a more customer-friendly environment would benefit all retail businesses,” said Andy Daniels, owner of Grimsby Giant Tiger.
Sandy Jaskula, co-owner of one of the longest tenured Main Street businesses, Teddy’s Food, Fun & Sprits, said the plan rolled out at the AGM would have a great impact on downtown.
“I really like the vision for Main Street and Ontario Street. It makes sense to add the enhanced sidewalk areas and take advantage of the time to add Ontario Street into the beautification,” said Jaskula.
“It makes total sense.”
Noting the drawings are “ambitious and comprehensive, Joon noted, a meeting can be planned with senior staff and directors of the Planning and Parks, Recreation and Culture (PRC) departments and the CAO to get the ball rolling.
“Elements of your concept may be synergistic with the ‘Downtown Reimagined’ initiative and the Town’s Recreation Master Plan, and connecting early in these processes will ensure robust and meaningful collaboration is provided for,” Joon said.
Williscraft noted the first person contacted about the plan was Acting Fire Chief Bill Thomson regarding the one-way street option. Thomson confirmed fire departments to not plan for response route to go over rail tracks, so one-way north on Ontario would not limit fire call response.
On the Town Square option, Williscraft confirmed with PRC director Sarah Sweeney this option is included in the Recreation Master Plan.
Because the changes being considered are growth related, an initial study which must be done and community engagement would be eligible to use development charges which would not impact the 2021 tax levy.
“There could also be regional and provincial capital project incentives, too,” said Williscraft, who added there is a great deal of research, consideration and public input still to be done.
In a report to Grimsby DIA’s AGM on Jan. 27, Tom O’Brien, associate – manager, landscape architecture with consultant IBI Group which created the streetscape outline with extensive DIA input, noted the draft rendering is “something to start with”. Some highlights:
• Added consideration for buses at the corner. Potential roll curb area at corner of Christie/Main (exact location TBD);
• Dispersed parallel parking evenly; breaking up the parking on the south side with planted bump outs and relocated a few parking spots east towards the post office. Balanced.
• Post office potential for a parkette/additional square. Future consideration.
• Cleared up to be mindful of their drive lane on both sides.
• Adelaide Street: included the street itself (from south curb) as part of Town Square. Flex street w/ removable bollards. Mindful of the new (existing) concrete work on the west side of the square/leave existing sidewalk there.
• Did not include a stage option but could be included with the highly programmable open space.
• Maximized on-street parking without impeding driveway entrances, accesses.