“I question the wisdom in putting much investment into the 4600 Block, it’s maybe apocryphal but Napoleon is quoted as saying ‘never reinforce defeat,’ and I don’t see any investment in the 4600 Block doing much to clean it up,” said Coun. James Cordeiro, during an Oct. 13 Terrace council committee of the whole meeting.
During the meeting, a report focused on improving the 4600 Block of Lakelse Ave. in Terrace was met with mixed reviews.
Presented to council by Alex Pietralla on behalf of the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area Society (TDIA), the report contains a site analysis of the 4600 Block and a preliminary conceptual design, focusing on reducing crime through landscaping and design elements.
Cordeiro, who owns Xanders Coffee on the 4600 Block, doubted the effectiveness environmental changes would have in reducing criminality.
“I’d be somewhat more inclined to invest in other blocks that have not deteriorated to the degree that the 4600 has, and simply allow the 4600 block to become the bad block and try to contain the problems rather than solve them there,” he said.
The report, created by consulting firm Harry Measure + Associates for the TDIA, 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.
The report leans on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), which are principles and practices meant to reduce crime through intelligent urban design features, including creating a welcoming and safe space, shifting focus to pedestrian as opposed to vehicle traffic, and adding mixed residential and commercial uses to drive traffic to the area.
Coun. Dave Gordon, a former president of the TDIA, said he thinks city council should take a leadership role on the issue.
“I am really passionate on revitalizing this block, I see it as a key part in renewing Terrace and I feel we are just at the cusp of revitalizing our community and this is a key part of that,” he said.
“If we leave this we are going to lose our downtown even more.”
The report states the goal is to deter crime, rather than dealing with it after it happens, and that criminal activity has decreased by as much as 40 per cent in areas that have embraced CPTED.
‘Target hardening,’ is the least desirable solution to crime, according to the report. The term refers to features that prohibit entry to buildings like bars, windows coverings and deadbolts — a major feature of the 4600 Block.
“To protect their businesses from crime and vandalism, several tenants have applied the CPTED principle of ‘target hardening’ by installing metal bars and mesh in the windows and doors,” the report states.
“In addition to obstructing views to the display of merchandise and the stores’ interiors, these measures convey the sense of an unsafe environment.”
To reduce the need for such measures, the report takes aim at the canopy on portions of the north and south sidewalks of the 4600 Block. Built in the 1970s, the canopy has no clear owner or insurance, and is not maintained.
The report urges 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.”
According to the report, the canopy obscures visibility of signage and storefront displays, and is dilapidated with evidence of falling structural elements and diminishing structural integrity.
The canopy’s removal would boost CPTED principles by making the sidewalk more open and inviting, creating unobstructed sight-lines and making space for activity areas in front of businesses.
Later during the meeting Cordeiro said that design improvements to the block will not address the social issues at the root of the problem.
“Trying to wallpaper over the issue with new wallpaper is not going to fix the problems downtown,” he said.
“Honestly I think it’s somewhat financially irresponsible to put a lot of investment in there unless there’s going to be some meaningful way of addressing the social problems, because best case scenario you are just going to move the 4600 Block’s problems to the 4500 Block.”
Pietralla said that with the new Mills Memorial Hospital project underway, and people moving from large cities to smaller centres and working remotely, the City of Terrace has a limited window to attract and retain young professionals and families.
“I think it’s urgent, I really do. I think we have two years to clean it up because the new people, the new professionals coming to town will want a vibrant downtown, they will want to feel safe,” he said.
The TDIA has enough money for a more detailed design for the 4600 Block and has money for a project manager, but would need the city’s financial support after that for engineering and costing steps, as well as construction.
At the end of the meeting, council reached a consensus to refer the issue to staff to gather more information.