I recently read this post over at Planetizen about Pedestrian Only Shopping Streets (or POSS) – what they are and how they can be instrumental in making communities more livable. As I read the piece it got me thinking about how this idea is currently represented in Regina and how it may be more fully realized. When you think “pedestrian only”, no doubt you think of Scarth Street in the downtown – but this concept really is larger than just one block… or, at least, it should be.
Today I want to share some excerpts from the article and see how this is playing out in downtown Regina. I’ve also put together a handy-dandy map to help walk through it (see above).
To start off, here’s a description of POSS from the article:
“They usually consist of one single street, or two or more streets that interconnect with each other, often through a square, to form a continuous and longer lineal street. The heart and central part of a POSS is a street-wide outdoor landscaped zone for pedestrians which is often designed and managed to achieve a desired environmental character and socio-economic outcome. Arranged along both sides of this pedestrian zone, there is a variety of establishments that sell goods and services to the public, such as souvenir shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, grocery stores, bakeries, lifestyle and fashion stores, banks and department stores.”
From this description, Scarth Street (the large red area on the map) as it exists is already a pretty strong POSS: landscaped zone for pedestrians – check; a variety of establishments – boutiques, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, banks – check;… no grocery store but we’ll save that topic for another day.
The piece continues: “This variety of establishments frequently includes famous churches, historic buildings, museums, weekly market days with fresh produce, seasonal attractions and other special events.”
While there aren’t famous churches on 1800 block Scarth Street, there are still many buildings from the city’s history which have been retained for the most part, and the Plains Museum is found here as well. However, the strength of Scarth Street as a POSS is also due in part to its expansion during the summer to include the Farmer’s Market one block south (the orange area on the map). This allows the dedicated pedestrian space to expand an extra 2 days/week during the summer months – a huge asset for drawing more people to the area. The Farmer’s Market seems to continue gaining momentum every year – it would be great to see it become a slightly more permanent fixture, at least during the summer. Maybe move up to 3 days/week to start?
In terms of future plans to continue strengthening our pedestrian only space is the new Victoria Park Plaza space (the large yellow area on the map). The space, when complete, will occasionally close to traffic for festivals, events, and I’m pretty sure it will also provide space for the Farmers Market to expand. While not in use for festivals, etc. there will be some traffic allowed but I imagine the speed and number of cars passing will likely be quite reduced. So, even if this is not a permanent POS, it still significantly increases the pedestrian space in the downtown. I actually wonder if this space will eventually become a permanent POS as the downtown grows and spaces like this are more in demand. Here is a neat image of the plaza space I found the other day with some details on what’s planned.
The other piece I want to address from this article is the importance of the surrounding streets that branch off of a POSS. To quote the article again: “When a POSS is long enough, it is possible to find a few side streets along the POSS. These side streets usually start-off, or loop, at or near the exterior edge of the pedestrian zone of the POSS and then lead away from the POSS and towards the next street. The side streets of a POSS most often extend the shopping from the POSS, have the traditional sidewalks, allow cars and other vehicles, permit on-street parking, and contain other land uses, such as housing and commercial offices.”
Hamilton Street exemplifies the above excerpt in that it is a more traditional retail space with sidewalks as well as traffic, etc. The 1800 block of Hamilton is also undergoing a renewal phase with some shops relocating to the area, the presence of lunch spots, the Creative City Centre for artists, and even some condo housing. The small red area that I’ve highlighted on the map represents a pathway through the alley that connects Scarth Street mall to Hamilton Street (lots of people don’t know about it, but it’s there and it’s actually pretty neat).
I think to really continue enhancing pedestrian only space downtown, this connection between Scarth St. and Hamilton St. needs to be strengthened and highlighted so that more people use it. Further, where this pathway emerges on Hamilton St. (right beside The Green Spot) needs to be reworked to function more as a outdoor cafe space to really make spending time here desirable.
The article also addresses the importance of connecting and facilitating the use of active transportation and public transit to reach these pedestrian only spaces as well. I’m not going getting into it much here – the bike racks on 1800-block Scarth are a good start, as is bus transportation along 11th. But, are there ways that we could continue to encourage these connections?
No doubt the creation of more bicycle parking and bike lanes would help – even if they were a few blocks away from the dedicated POSS it would still create routes. The bike lane on Lorne Street is currently one option, though I don’t know if it extends north of Victoria Ave. or whether you need to go through the park, or perhaps there should also be another bike lane installed on Rose Street going through downtown (at the moment it is a pretty quiet street).
These are just a few thoughts on how to take an already great pedestrian only space and keep maturing it to contribute to overall livability in the downtown. It seems like we have a good base to start from and should just continue to connect spaces to create an attractive pedestrian network.
What are some other options for maintaining Scarth Street’s status as a people magnet? Is there one thing that would make you want to spend more time there?