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Unsightly downtown canopy being removed this year

Marks start of desire to refurbish 4600 Block of Lakelse Ave.
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A city plan to remove the canopy overhanging sidewalks on the 4600 Block of Lakelse is moving forward this year. (Staff photo)

A first step toward a long term plan to update and refresh the look of the 4600 Block of Lakelse Ave. in the downtown core begins this year with the removal of the canopy that overhangs the sidewalk.

Erected in the 1980s when the city’s primary downtown block was last rejuvenated, the canopy is considered outdated, dilapidated and structurally unsound.

It has no current owner and no insurance although a legal opinion requested by the city in 2021 argues that despite the lack of clarity is to who is responsible for it, liability rests with the city because it overhangs a city-owned sidewalk.

Businesses along the 4600 Block and the city began discussing the future of the canopy five years ago with first thoughts of fixing up the canopy instead of removing it. But that idea never moved forward.

Instead the city has now pencilled in $500,000 to remove the canopy this year as part of its proposed capital spending plan for 2023.

The money will come from a major provincial grant received in 2019 and again in 2020 for the city to spend on capital projects it might not otherwise be able to afford.

A longer term rejuvenation plan would still need to be worked out between the city and businesses involving not only the design for a new look on the 4600 Block of Lakelse but who would pay for it. Any improvements to the look would be accompanied by a rebuilding of the roadway.

Another $135,000, also from the major grant received by the city, is being assigned to finance the design for the rejuvenation.

Business owners through the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area group commissioned a study two years ago that recommended 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 report by the consulting firm of Harry Measure + Associates further said the overhang obscures visibility of signage and storefront displays.

But the company also said the 4600 Block block has significant potential to be a showcase for residents and visitors.

“[The block] is ideally suited to be revitalized as a pedestrian-oriented street.

Through appropriate urban design, amenities and activities planning, Block 4600 can once again become ‘the heart’ of the downtown and will be a popular destination for both residents and visitors,” the consulting firm added.

The draft capital budget would also see the city focus on other project aimed at updating and rejuvenating the entrance to city hall.

City officials have set aside $600,000 for this project and like the 4600 Block of Lakelse, the money would come from the provincial grant received by the city in 2019 and 2020.

“The city plans to approach an architect in 2023 to begin planning this project. The exact extent of this project will be determined at that time, but initial discussions is to focus on accessibility, energy efficiency, and appearance,” said city communications official Tyler Clarke.

“The need for this project is due to the aging façade, replacement of rotting old wooden window frames, aging front entrance vestibule, and the need for improved accessibility to the building.”