CARBONEAR, NL — Carbonear’s downtown area is looking to get revitalized, and Tract Consulting has some big plans in mind.
On Wednesday night, Nov. 15, Tract Consulting president Neil Dawe made a presentation to residents of the community, as well as business owners of downtown Carbonear. The project came about following a tender sent out by the Town of Carbonear, looking to give a new life to the downtown area. Dawe told The Compass that after being awarded the contract, he and the rest of Tract Consulting are looking forward to giving downtown Carbonear a fresh feel.
The Princess Sheila NaGeira Theatre saw several dozen members of the community join together for Dawe’s presentation, which highlighted the ideas and concepts behind the revitalization project.
Dawe described the aim of the project was to create an attractive and distinct waterfront district, with a strong focus on things like social interaction, economic and cultural development, and a sense of welcome for residents and visitors alike.
“Downtown Carbonear is already a beautiful part of the community, and already has a lot going for it,” said Dawe. “But we just want to improve on that – enhance it, and make it more inviting and welcoming. Build on what’s already there. We’d like to see some lighting, some signage, some places for children, or places where we can have picnics in the summer. We want a place that’s designed for the community.”
The project, which has been divided up into several phases, is expected to start in spring of 2018 if all goes well. A cost estimate for all these phases combined, conducted in April of 2017, priced the project at $5,308,951.
Dawe’s presentation also highlighted a focus on celebrating Carbonear’s history, noting things like storyboards and murals that tell the story of the town akin to the ones seen in many larger cities across the world, and other slight, but noticeable changes that Dawe feels would significantly enhance the downtown experience.
Other smaller additions, such as more trees and flora in the area, as well as larger-scale ambitions like waterfront parks and event areas, as well as a farmer’s market, are all on the list of things Dawe would like to see added to the area as the project unfolds.
Dawe also noted that while the project looks to add and expand on the downtown area, it also hopes to help enhance businesses and tourist attractions that already exist in the area.
“Places like the Stone Jug, Rorke Store, and old post office are already attracting visitors to the area,” explained Dawe. “But there are so many more buildings on Water Street that could be having the same effect, and that’s also a part of what we want to do to give the street a fresh feeling.”
While many residents present for the presentation seemed to like what they were seeing, some still had concerns about what it meant for those already living and working in the area.
The revitalization of certain buildings and the process involved in doing so was a major concern for some residents, who stated that there were already some buildings in the area that had not been looked at in years, and were becoming something of an eyesore. Dawe, alongside Mayor Frank Butt, explained that the town is looking into ways to handle buildings owned by people that cannot be contacted.
Revitalizing the area requires buildings on the street providing visitors and residents with a sense of welcome. This, as Dawe explained, includes giving businesses and other buildings a new look, with a focus on using clapboard siding, maintaining an old Newfoundland vibe.
Water Street business owner Keith Thomas raised concerns about this, stating that, while he welcomes the change, such renovations can be costly, especially when it comes to maintaining the siding every five or so years once it begins to show signs of wear.
“What sort of incentive do I, as well as other businesses in the area, have to make these changes? I have no doubt that it would improve the visual aspect of the area, but such things can be very costly,” said Thomas.
While no major decisions have been made by the town or by Tract Consulting to address these concerns, both Dawe and Butt stated that such conversations were vital to the future of the project.
After the presentation, Dawe spoke with The Compass about the project, and what comes next after Wednesday night’s presentation.
“There’s a lot of work that’s been done that should really set a very good platform upon which to now build out the street, to carry out the first phase,” Dawe explained. “I think a lot of people in the community feel that this is a development whose time has come, and I really think that Carbonear’s star is rising – it’s becoming a place to go to now.”
Dawe also explained that, assuming the town can acquire the funds for the project, the next step for the process is the underground infrastructure. This includes any underground wiring that is required to support things like internet connection, wall plug ins for residents, as well as larger additions Dawe envisions for the street, such as water fountains.
Another major aspect of the underground infrastructure that Dawe would like to see done is the placement of light pole utilities underground, ridding the street of any wires hanging above people’s heads.
“If that is possible, it would do wonders for the street – it would look cleaner right off the bat, and would also help us when it comes to adding trees, or any sort of tall structures,” Dawe said.