LETHBRIDGE – A “Civic Lane” is the highlight of a draft master plan for the area of downtown Lethbridge now being referred to as Civic Common.
The draft plan is the result of recent public engagement surrounding the area bordered by Stafford Drive, 6 Avenue South, 11 Street, and 4 Avenue South. It anticipates redevelopment of buildings that may be at or near the end of their lifespan, including the RCMP detachment, Civic Ice Centre, and YMCA, while making better use of the green space and parking areas around City Hall, the Yates Theatre, old courthouse, and Fritz Sick Centre.
“A lot of where the concept is today, including the overall vision and the phasing strategy, was a direct result of the feedback from the public,” downtown revitalization manager Andrew Malcolm said in an interview. “In addition, the actual name change from the ‘Civic Precinct master plan’ to the ‘Civic Common master plan’ was directly reflective of comments from the public.”
The Civic Lane would run north-south, parallel to the west side of Civic Park. It would do away with curbs to create a flexible shared space that could be used for events and festivals while allowing vehicle traffic and parking alongside pedestrians and cyclists at other times.
“We know that parking is somewhat of an issue that needs to be looked at with this area. We have a number of uses that require large amounts of parking, but for specific times,” he explained. “During those off-times when the parking may not be required, how do we create a space that is inviting to people and can be used, so that we don’t have this big empty space that may go through periods of being underutilized?”
Civic Lane would also connect to a grand pedestrian entrance on the west side of the common, aligned with 5 Avenue.
The draft report also envisions 4 Avenue South along the north side of the common as “Celebration Way” for parades and gatherings like Remembrance Day ceremonies. A landscaped “Front Lawn” between the street and City Hall and adjacent buildings would lead people from there into the common. A similar design as 4 Avenue is suggested for 11 Street.
Civic Green incorporates the existing park, usable for active and passive recreation, with a large field and pathways. It does not suggest any major changes, such as the removal of the existing track. Malcolm said there was strong public feedback in favour of preserving a park there.
Between the park and the Fritz Sick Centre, a “Market Plaza” is proposed, as another connection to 5 Avenue South, covered by a canopy, and an event support structure. Malcolm said spaces currently used for outdoor events in the downtown area are generally booked to capacity, and this would create alternatives.
The first steps towards the overall vision could be accommodated around the existing structures. They include removing the fence on the north side of the green space, building a multi-use path, adding lighting, and developing the first portion of Civic Lane where the current City Hall parking lot is located.
But that will depend on future funding. Malcolm said the concept comes first, followed by budgeting and implementation.
Members of the public can go online to read over the plan. They also have until Aug. 10 to fill out a questionnaire. The timeline has been extended, with a final plan expected to go before City Council in October.
The city will consult with the owners/occupants of the existing buildings, such as the YMCA and RCMP, before making decisions about their future.
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