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'Reimagination' of Thunder Bay's north core well under way

City, architects hold open house to get feedback on plan to turn Red River Road into a more pedestrian-friendly space.

THUNDER BAY – Chris Hunda thinks a plan to make a section of Red River Road in Thunder Bay’s downtown north core more pedestrian friendly is a great idea.

Hunda, who works in the downtown, said it's an exciting plan after looking at drawings and schematics of presented as part of the city’s Reimagining the North Core Streetscapes proposal.

“I think this is a really nice project for the downtown core. It really adds to the versatility of all the streets, with all the different set-ups they can have, depending on the season, depending on the events that are going on,” he said

.“I think it’s really going to make it a really nice change for Thunder Bay.”

The city, along with Brooks McIlroy architects, held an open house on July 21 at Goods and Co., inviting the public to see potential designs and provide feedback, good and bad, about the project, which carries a budget of between $6 million and $8 million and a timeline for completion as early as 2023.

It’s part of an ongoing plan to restructure sections of the downtown core, which to date has included closing down portions of several streets to make room for outdoor patios. The remainder of the proposal expands on that.

“I think everyone is going to enjoy it,” Hunda said. “It’s something different for the livability of the city, especially during the summer months.”

According to Albert Viljoen, an associate at Brooks McIlroy, said the feedback has mostly been that of excitement, at seeing what this section of the public realm might become, in relatively short order.

“They’re seeing places where people can spill out onto the street in a meaningful way and not be obstructed by vehicles. The real goal is to create this pedestrian-centric downtown north core where people and families and anybody from the town can come and see themselves in the streetscape and practice their culture in the downtown and it being a meaningful space,” Viljoen said.

In addition to patios on the lock-stone street, there could be firepits and spaces where an outdoor stage could be set up for special events, like a New Year’s Eve concert. Art and lighting installations will be included, and curbing and sidewalks will be removed to create a plaza-like atmosphere.

Brian Newman, a project engineer with the City of Thunder Bay, said the streetscape is still being designed, hence the public feedback. He’s confident the finished design will be something the entire city can get behind.

“It’s kind of a legacy project in a way. We’re trying something a little bit new and unique in the downtown core to reinvest into some buildings, as business owners have reinvested themselves,” Newman said.

The city will take control of the project once the streetscaping is complete, with the tender expected to go out by late fall or early winter for the work to happen next summer.

“We’re trying to get to the point where Red River Road, from Court to Cumberland can be closed off at any given moment. The curb and gutter will be part of the infrastructure itself ... We’re doing that all with the thought of having these big events, street closures and patios and decks and features that businesses want to have for weekly functions, monthly functions or daily functions, whatever they have to offer.”

The street will remain open to traffic, though not when events are scheduled.  

- TBNewsWatch