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Council discusses Essex Centre and Harrow Centre Streetscape plan projects

- total improvement project costs are estimated at nearly $8.5M -

by Sylene Argent

On Monday evening, Essex Council hosted a special Council meeting to discuss streetscape projects.

  Nelson Silveira, Essex’s Economic Development Officer, used the opportunity to provide an overview of the two Streetscape Plans the Town has had created one in Essex, the other in Harrow and highlighted the work proposed to be completed in each document.

  In 2014, Stempki Kelly Associates created the Essex Centre Streetscape & Silo District Street Plan, which looked at better and accessible treatments for the street, a consolidated theme, and to provide an inviting and accessible public place and opportunities for partnering on its projects.

  Other projects in the Essex Centre Streetscape & Silo District Plan included street trees with irrigation system and planting pit, and new lighting options that range from refurbishing existing poles, to new poles with existing lighting, to new poles and lighting.

  The report also highlighted the option of a crossing over Talbot, near the Heritage Gardens Park entrance, which would also have a gateway.

  Last year, Stempki Kelly Associates created a streetscape plan for Harrow Centre. It highlighted designated furnishing zones with street greening, decorative lighting with customized banners and black pendant luminaries, using banners and hanging baskets on the light posts, and furnishing styles with wood and/or steel.

  During the presentation, Silveira noted main streets are a vital part of a community’s open pubic space system and they have a distinct position, identity, and role. He noted the purpose of the streetscape plans was to replace infrastructure and assets that reach their end-of-life and to protect and enhance the viability of the rural downtown areas.

  The budget for the Harrow Streetscape Plan was estimated at $4.6million, which included: $800,000 for lighting and underground electrical work, $1.3 million for sidewalks and crosswalks, and funds for the Queen/King streets paving, which he said would provide longevity and a fresher finish, and the Harrow sewer project.

  The budget for the Essex Centre Streetscape Plan was estimated at $3.8M, including $1.3million for lighting, $1.3million for sidewalks and crosswalks, $175,000 for furnishings, with funding for the Talbot Street Paving Project.

  With a winter 2019 approval of the funding, Silveira said the Essex Centre Streetscape program could be finished by fall of 2022, and the Harrow Centre Streetscape Plan could be finished by summer 2022.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek wondered about space for bikes on the road as there are several bike racks to be added to the downtown areas in the plan. Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, noted what administration was looking at through the streetscape plans was a change in visuals and esthetics, and to improve the area to be more functional for businesses and residents.

  If Council wished to move forward with that type of infrastructure, additional studies could be conducted. She said when cyclists come from other municipalities, bike racks would encourage cyclists to come to town.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he would like to see the funding broken down on essential infrastructure for projects such as the sewers and roadworks, and other items, such as trees and other infrastructure.  

  Silveira said more specific breakdowns will come forward in the future.

  Mayor Larry Snively said the programs were created based on feedback from residents and the business community. He said he is really in favour of the streetscape programs. He added streetscapes have been talked about for a long time. The way he feels is, if we do it now, the cost is there, if it is phased, in the end, it will be double the cost. If money can be saved on lighting, he is all for it, but the projects have been a long time coming. 

“We are way behind and I will leave it at that,” he said.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said he was happy to see the projects would be moving forward with adding trees, and that there is a plan in place to grow them to a certain height, then move them to a park. A new tree would then be re-added to the downtown area. This would keep the trees a bit smaller so they will not cover business signs.

  Bjorkman said the plans require a huge cost in regards to lighting. Something needs to happen with the lighting, he noted, as he is concerned with the number associated with that improvement in the document.

  Councillor Morley Bowman said the projects are expensive, but what they provide the community is amazing.   

  Chris Nepszy, CAO, said Council can tweak the Streetscapes. There was a lot of time energy and effort put into the projects. He said he heard from Council loud and clear how important the streetscapes are, but there will be some tough discussions come budget time.

  Bill Baker of Harrow & Colchester Chamber of Commerce is in support of the project. Certainly, tweaking is part of the process. He believes the Town of Essex is financially healthy enough to support the projects.

  He said stakeholders are investing because the Town plans to invest in the downtown areas.

  Silveira sought direction from Council in regards on funding and a timeline for implementing the Essex Centre and Harrow Centre streetscape projects. Council received the presentation and motioned to have administration return to Council with a detailed funding model and timeline for both Essex Centre and Harrow Centre Streetscape Projects.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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