For one day, Nicol Street was the place to be, and residents hope that can be the case every day.
Organizers were happy with Sunday’s My Street event, which was a block party, sidewalk sale and a forum for people to share their visions for the south-end corridor. Heavy winds blew away the party mid-afternoon, but there were several hours before that for passers-by to glimpse the area’s potential.
“Everybody got exactly what we wanted out of it,” said Sydney Robertson of Build a Better Block Nanaimo, the event organizer. “Lots of people came and they just experienced that Nicol Street could be something different.”
She said Sunday’s traffic-calming measures, with lane closures and manned pedestrian crosswalks, made the street feel safer.
“We’ve come a long way in how we look at traffic, not just in Nanaimo, but people all over the world are changing how we look at cars and what cars need and what pedestrians need,” Robertson said.
Golder Associates collected survey data at My Street and will tabulate it over the coming weeks for the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association, but feedback will continue to be sought over the coming months as part of the Terminal Nicol Re-Imagined project.
Darren Moss, chairman of that project’s street scape committee, said his group is looking at the corridor objectively and trying to come up with a plan that could lead to action from the City of Nanaimo and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
His committee wants to be able to say to government, “As a result of this public process, this is the street scape that has the strongest public support,” Moss said. “And take that daunting public-engagement piece out of their hands and bring them a supported image for them to implement.”
He got a chance to talk to a lot of people one-on-one at the My Street event. He got a sense of some of their hang-ups and some of the challenges to work through, but he also felt a growing pride and energy among residents.
Corry Hostetter, executive director of the downtown business improvement association, said she came across people who just wanted to be a part of the atmosphere at My Street.
“I thought that was just so telling of what the area is like and how much they want to see some change in the area, positive change,” she said.
Her group is primarily interested in sparking economic growth in the area.
“That’s what our mandate is, but we also want to bring people down to the city centre and have them enjoy it. We want people to feel safe when they’re walking up and down the streets,” Hostetter said. “Those are our only preconceived notions.”
She said any major change in the area takes the involvement of all community partners and citizens and the city as a whole, and said that’s happening.
“This really feels like a game-changing moment…” Robertson said. “It feels like we’re getting critical mass. There is enough support for this.”