Big plans for downtown Paris

A master plan for downtown Paris identifies Grand River Street as the retail corridor and includes suggestions for improvements. Vincent Ball

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PARIS The “Prettiest Little Town in Canada” soon could get a facelift.

Brant County councillors are poised to approve a major new report for Paris that calls for, among other things, a $6-million downtown parking garage, reconstruction of several streets and shared space to accommodate public events.

The Downtown Paris Master Plan was supported by councillors at a recent corporate development meeting and is expected to be approved at council’s Oct. 22 meeting. After that, residents can provide further input at a public meeting, which has yet to to be scheduled.

“It’s really exciting,” said Coun. John Peirce, who represents Ward 3, which encompasses a large section of Paris.

“This will be the first time in decades that we’ve undertaken something this major in the downtown. I really like this report but what I like most is the timeline and the idea that we build the parking structure first,” he said.

“There will be some inconvenience, there’s no doubt about it, but I think people will realize the value of what we’re doing and where we’re headed.”

Plans call for a four-level parking structure with space for 300 to 350 vehicles to be built at the site of the existing municipal parking lot behind the Brant County council chambers and fronting on Broadway Street West. It also could accommodate public or commercial uses at street level.

The municipal parking lot behind the Brant County council chambers and facing onto Broadway Street could become the home of a four-level $6 million parking garage under a plan to revitalize the downtown Paris. Vincent Ball jpg, BR

The proposed timeline calls for the parking structure to be built within the next five years. A best-case scenario would see work begin as early as 2020, Peirce said.

Coun. Steve Howes, who represents Ward 2, which also takes in a large part of Paris, is also excited about the plan.

“Paris is in a valley between two rivers (the Grand and Nith) and this plan, when it’s done, will reflect that,” he said.

“For decades now, our downtown has focused on one street (Grand River Street), one block and one river (the Grand),” he said. “With this plan, we’re creating a downtown district that includes both rivers and several blocks.

“It will elevate the prosperity of the downtown. It’s going to be fabulous.”

Howes said he believes inconvenience can be minimized by having a plan for temporary parking prior to the start of work on the parking structure.

Once the parking structure is done, the timeline calls for the reconstruction, with the next five years, of Broadway Street West at a cost of about $480,000.

A second phase, to be done within the next five to 10 years, calls for the reconstruction of Mechanic Street. The work could include an extensive underground stormwater system and would cost an estimated $988,000.

A second part of Phase 2 calls reconstruction of Grand River Street at a cost of about $460,000.

A third phase, to be done within the next 10 to 15 years, calls for the reconstruction of William Street at an estimated cost of $390,000. followed by reconstruction of West River Street at a cost of about $300,000.

The 64-page report includes detailed analysis of the challenges and potential solutions for the downtown. It was prepared after three public meetings and consultations with various community groups.

Councillors learned, through the process, that residents are concerned with, among other issues, downtown traffic, parking, vacant and unattractive storefronts and furnishings.

Potential solutions include creating a mini-roundabout at the Grand River and Mechanic streets to permit a safe left turn from Mechanic to Grand River and a safer crossing for pedestrians and cyclists.

The report provides two options for the reconstruction of Grand River Street, identified as the retail corridor. Option one maintains angled parking and calls for resurfacing the traffic lanes and sidewalks but with the same dimensions.

Option two calls for wider sidewalks, narrower traffic lanes and parallel parking, which would mean  a complete reconfiguration of the street to increase pedestrian space to 6.1 metres from 2.5 metres.

Wincey Mills on Mechanic Street is identified as an anchor for plans to revitalize downtown Paris. Vincent Ball jpg, BR

Mechanic Street, which runs east-west between Grand River and West River street backing on to the Nith, is the site of the Wincey Mills building, which is identified as the downtown anchor. Used to manufacture textiles back in the 1880s, the building was revitalized and opened in May 2016 as an office building, market, cafe and community gathering spot.

The report recommends, among other things, that a shared street sign be installed at Broadway and Grand River streets to create an area that could be used for community celebrations, street festivals or a farmers’ market.

Broadway Street, meanwhile, is identified as the cultural corridor. It runs north-south, parallel to the Nith, and has important heritage buildings, the report notes.

The heritage component makes Broadway an ideal location for a new main library either at street level in the proposed parking garage or at another redevelopment site, the report states.

For William Street, identified as the connector corridor, the report suggests a reconstruction to accommodate bicycle shared lanes, bicycle parking and continuous concrete sidewalks. William is a gateway to the downtown and runs east-west, crossing Grand River and Broadway streets.

To view the full report visit .