Monday, February 12, 2018

Next Steps Toward Arena Property Renewal

Last week Council approved taking the next steps toward the plans to redevelop the existing Arena property on Haist Street.

You will recall that the Town’s 2017 budget included funds to hire a planning and design firm to work together with the community to discuss and design redevelopment options of the existing Arena property on Haist Street.

Since 2017-18 will be the last ice season in the existing arena, Council prudently began planning for the future of the property. This included not only this work, but also funding a renovation of the Town’s Tice Road Operations Centre to accommodate parks and cemeteries staff (who currently work from the Haist property).

The Planning Partnership won the bid for the redesign work and started with two “community co-design” sessions at the Arena this past June. Representatives from user groups, neighbours, and interested residents worked in three design groups to develop 12 concept plans. Based on the discussions and work, each plan looked at ways to keep as much greenspace as possible, provide trail connections, minimize impacts on existing residential uses, and improve existing parkland features.

The firm then reviewed the concepts and gleaned them into five “explorations”: single detached houses; central park; rear-laneway townhouses and singles; front driveway townhouses; and apartments. Each of these options were posted online for public feedback. 120 survey respondents preferred some features in the explorations over others – including no change in the park and to only consider residential development in the area around the existing Town buildings and parking lot.

The Planning Partnership tested an “emerging preferred concept” at a community workshop in September. While suggesting some improvements – like ensuring that any new lighting doesn’t shine on existing properties – the majority of participants liked the plan. Why? The plan suggested no change in the location of the open spaces (soccer fields), the playground, or the platform tennis. The plan also maintained the wooded area along the western edge of the property and constructs a walking trail. Further, the concept blended townhouses and single-family homes – similar to housing in the surrounding neighbourhood.

During this process, a few folks strongly expressed a desire “that nothing be done with respect to this property until after the new east Fonthill community center be opened and that it's 1st year of operation is proven.” Realistically, the status quo option is neither judicious nor responsible. Obviously, there’s no going back from building and operating the new Community Centre. And, since we know that no one will be using the Town buildings (aside from paddle tennis) after August 2018, it’s Council’s responsibility to plan and prepare for the future.

So, this “emerging preferred concept” was presented to and discussed by Council on October 10, 2017. The concept responds to community desires by maintaining green areas and park amenities, creating a connected trail system, and calls for similar type of housing. The concepts also provides two points of entrance, increases safety through “eyes on the park” from the housing, and offers lane-based and attractive townhouses.

So, last Monday, Staff officially presented a report with the recommendation to have Staff develop design guidelines, and official plan amendment and zoning bylaw amendment. Why? Beause by codifying it in this way we can help make the community’s preferred concept a reality.

For a copy of the preferred concept and the presentation to Council, please go to my online journal at or the Town’s website

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