A couple of weeks ago I participated in the City of Peterborough Official Plan Design Charrette. It was a four day process that took place in the former Peterborough Library space at Peterborough Square. It allowed interested organizations, businesses, not-for-profits, former planners and more to blue sky the possibilities for Peterborough’s future built footprint.
Officially, from a City of Peterborough news release, “a Design Charrette is a collaborative design exercise and its objective is to establish a vision for built form (such as density, height, and building types), streetscapes, and green and public spaces.” To that end, we were supported by Lett Architects and a company called The Planning Partnership.
The first two days were centered on the city’s nodes, corridors, and neighbourhoods outside of the downtown core. Eight areas of interest were identified, four in the south and four in the north end of the city:
A designer guided the discussion and a lot of trace paper was consumed as tables articulated their ideas for each area. In some cases, two tables examined similar areas with different parameters. For
example – Lansdowne-Memorial had one table looking at it as a clean slate and the other with an OHL type facility. I liked the parameters as I feel it’s important to be aware of commitments, leases, agreements etc, but, that said, I would have liked to have seen a few more such as developing Morrow Park and the parameter of the Agricultural Society lease. In the downtown sessions, the GE lands were on the table for development, but given the remediation required permitted uses may be severely limited. There is another group that will be looking at the site more in depth as part of a “Communities in Transition Grant Project” led by Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development.
I also learned from those first two days that there was a common desire to see taller buildings (in the 4-8 storey range) with retail and office on the first two floors, residential above and a footprint that is closer to the street. There was also debate as to how to integrate green spaces into new developments and reclaim some areas currently paved. Many of these designs are being encouraged through the Provincial Policy Statement and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Under these plans the province is projecting that by 2041 Peterborough will have grown by +14,000 jobs and +31,500 residents.
On top of this the city is required to reach certain density targets in built areas. In outlying new build areas that target under the new Official Plan will be 80 residents + jobs/hectare and in the urban growth area that jumps to 150 residents + jobs/hectare. Needless to say there is a lot the City Planning department has to think about and incorporate.
There also seems to be general sentiment that big box type stores will not need to be as large and the land could be repurposed as smaller retail or housing. It was a sentiment that led to a discussion around the future of bricks and mortar retail versus online purchasing of goods. Recently at a seminar hosted by our local RBC branch, the Retail Council of Canada revealed that 9% of all purchases in Canada were made online; five years ago that number was 4%. So there is definitely an increasing use of online buying by Canadian consumers. That said, many also considered grocery stores and everyday essential stores
foundational fabrics of a community.
In the downtown sessions four areas were discussed:
community and would require little more than some infilling of empty or inefficiently used spaces.
In the Central Area, there was a call for continued infill of buildings to mix with the old, building more multi layer parking or building above current parking, potentially developing a core heritage district, sight lines of key landmarks such as the Market Hall clock tower and determining secondary uses for older church buildings that may become available. Returning to two-way traffic on some of the north-south corridors was also widely discussed.
The final morning saw a smaller but engaged group talking about design principles for the downtown and this is where I think there was the most meat on the bone. There was a discussion about affordable
housing and how that term is defined; the Chamber made a request for flexible zoning so that the City is not handcuffed by its own policy and is ready to accept the next wave of business owner e.g combining two or three uses not usually connected in one space (Publican House, Tiny Greens, etc...); and continuing to incorporate green space.
We, as a community, also don't want to lose sight of the linkages between these future nodes. As such, it's important to think about the overall Peterborough identity and how that identity connects us all.
Over the course of the four days, the Chamber had a number of residents participate from our Policy Committee and Board of Directors. Thank you for your participation and we look forward to continuing to keep our membership involved in the official plan process.
City of Peterborough Official Plan Review