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The City of Gatineau is consulting residents about an ambitious plan to design a lively new downtown core in the Hull sector that will attract visitors and residents from throughout the city.
The plan is to increase the population density and the quality of the buildings in the area bounded by the Université du Québec en Outaouais near Boulevard St-Joseph, the Ottawa River and Boulevard de la Carrière north of Lac Leamy.
City planners hope to create a hub and gathering place for residents of the amalgamated city formed in 2002 from the union of Aylmer, Hull, Gatineau, Buckingham and Masson-Angers.
The city has provided no cost estimate for rebuilding downtown, but planners say it would be significant. The goal is to complete much of the work by 2025.
The draft plan provides a long list of planning problems in Gatineau’s city core, including the sprawl of office buildings, aging housing, too many parking lots and a lack of lively places to draw people downtown.
The plan’s list of flaws in the urban landscape include the presence of old paper mills along the Ottawa River shoreline, a shortage of pedestrian paths and green spaces and a highway network that fragments residential neighbourhoods.
Mario Gauthier, an urban planning professor at the Université du Québec en Outaouais, said there are too few stores or interesting attractions downtown.
Gatineau’s downtown population has declined to 13,000 people from 25,000 during the 1950s. The plan recommends increasing the population in the downtown to 25,000 people by 2025.
One artist’s concept looking west along a redesigned Laurier Street shows a restored timber chute on the Domtar Paper property with a proposed new Canada Museum of Science and Technology in the background. The federal government has said it has no money for even a slimmed down $400-million version of the museum, which is located off St. Laurent Boulevard in Ottawa.
A proposed Place Philemon—named after Hull founder Philemon Wright—would stand beside the museum, providing an open area where crowds could gather. A farmers market and a public library would be built across the square near the Ottawa River.
Councillor Denise Laferrière, who represents the area, said residents who want to see better housing and more space for pedestrians and cyclists should attend the workshop on redesigning downtown.
The plan recommends redesigning the deserted former bar strip, Promenade du Portage, and Maisonneuve, Montcalm, Laval, Hotel-de-Ville and Leduc streets.
Ms. Laferrière said the city will have to decide which parts of its downtown core need to be improved first because the project will be expensive.
The city wants residents to present maps and sketches to illustrate their ideas for improving Gatineau’s downtown at a workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 20 at City Hall, Maison du Citoyen, on 25 Laurier St. Anyone who wants to participate in the workshop should register by Sept. 17 by calling the city at 819-243-2345 or using the the city website www.gatineau.ca.
A public hearing on planning Gatineau’s downtown is scheduled from 3:30 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 22 at Maison du Citoyen. Briefs or comments on the plan should be submitted by Sept. 15 using the city website.
(C) Ottawa Citizen