The City of Terrace is moving forward with a plan to revitalize the 4600 Block of Lakelse Ave., in conjunction with the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area Society, building owners and tenants. (Black Press Media file photo)

The City of Terrace is moving forward with a plan to revitalize the 4600 Block of Lakelse Ave., in conjunction with the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area Society, building owners and tenants. (Black Press Media file photo)

Lakelse Ave. 4600 Block canopy in the crosshairs as Terrace council moves on revitalization

City to consult with property owners, businesses as plan moves forward

The City of Terrace is moving forward to remove the longstanding canopies on the 4600 Block of Lakelse Ave., but the door is still open for businesses to take control of the structure themselves.

During a Nov. 22 meeting, city council moved a recommendation that the city work alongside the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area (TDIA) and property owners “to develop a detailed design and timeline for the reconstruction of the 4600 Block, removal of the canopy and the refurbishment and improvement required to the affected commercial building facades.”

Built in the 1980s, the canopy has no current clear owner or insurance, and is not maintained. Originally, it was the responsibility of the 4600 Block Merchant’s Association, but that group was not a formal association or society leading a lack of clarity and inaction, resulting in the degradation of the structure.

Last month, the city received a legal opinion from law firm Young Anderson, which argued that despite a lack of clarity on who owns the canopy, it is wholly within the municipal roadway.

The opinion also states that the canopy is unsafe and unsightly, and a liability for the city. Therefore the city should be able to take whatever action it deems necessary to deal with the problem, including removal.

As the design moves forward for the reconstruction and revitalization of the street, the city will step in to maintain the canopy to a minimum standard on an interim basis.

But the removal of the structure is not necessarily final. Some councillors argued that the property owners should have the option to collectively take ownership and pay to renovate and maintain it if they choose.

“I think the step that is being missed is there hasn’t really been meaningful consultation with those businesses,” Coun. James Cordeiro said during the meeting.

“My perspective is that there needs to be consensus from those businesses to maintain that canopy to a standard that’s satisfactory to the city, and without that consensus the canopy is coming down.”

Coun. Brian Downie supported the recommendation and stressed the need for a set timeline and plan or the issue will continue to persist for years, noting that the canopy could still be removed independent of street reconstruction or other work on the block.

“I think if we wait we’re essentially delaying what I think is the inevitable in terms of removing the canopy,” he said.

“I think we’re also putting that whole street in limbo in terms of revitalizing for business development, the vacant properties there, the darkness of the canopy on the south side of the street, if we are going to move forward I think we could do better.”

David Block, director of development services, said that the motion will allow the TDIA to take the lead towards a detailed design in 2022, with the revitalization project finalized the following year. Then, the project would likely be funded in 2024, which gives the city time to assess design work and engage all property owners and tenants.

The motion follows TDIA’s presentation to council in October, where the group shared a report from consulting firm Harry Measure + Associates and a preliminary design for 4600 Block improvements and reconstruction.

That document identified a lack of storefront and sidewalk maintenance, the aging canopy covering the south sidewalk, and visible storefront security as factors that have contributed to the decline of the city’s downtown and increase in criminality in the area.

READ MORE: Terrace council reviews concept plan to revitalize 4600 Block

The report urged that the canopy be removed, because it “creates the impression of an area of ‘entrapment’ where pedestrians feel unsafe due to the presence of vagrants.”

The canopy obscures visibility of signage and storefront displays, and is dilapidated with evidence of falling structural elements and diminishing structural integrity, according to the consulting firm.

The city last sought to reach a solution to the canopy issue in 2017/18, when it consulted directly with building owners. Talks were focused on refurbishing the canopy and having the building owners take responsibility for maintenance, but nothing was finalized or agreed upon.

READ MORE: Days numbered for dreary downtown canopy