Downtown Vibrancy Project ‘Breathing Life’ Into Neglected Areas

Community members plant 1,000 plants, to install public art

Community members and volunteers take part in efforts to revitalize less-desirable areas of the downtown core. Photo by Karen Halley of GreenUp.

Creating livable and sustainable spaces for the community and the environment are top of mind for stakeholders involved in a project to re-vitalize areas of Peterborough’s downtown.

The Downtown Vibrancy Project, led by the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA), is a collaboration that is “breathing life” back into several neglected areas of the core, GreenUp’s Dawn Pond, the Downtown Vibrancy and Depave Paradise project co-ordinator, tells Electric City Magazine.

“Creating spaces that are attractive to visitors, residents, employees and businesses that also give them places to relax, interact with or even enjoy open space exhibits or entertainment is critical for a vibrant downtown.”

“The goal of the project is to demonstrate the potential for beautification of our downtown core through citizen action and to create valuable and ecologically-friendly public gathering spaces,” Dawn says.

Each year, The Downtown Vibrancy Project will transform a site in downtown Peterborough. One large-scale revitalization project will happen every year for three years (2018-2020).

Terry Guiel, executive director of the DBIA, explains, “taking underused areas of the downtown and repurposing and transforming them into vibrant, interactive and lively public spaces is essentially what we are striving to do.

“Creating spaces that are attractive to visitors, residents, employees and businesses that also give them places to relax, interact with or even enjoy open space exhibits or entertainment is critical for a vibrant downtown.”

A sub-group of members from the DBIA gathered to create the revitalization project based on a three-step process — probe, pilot, project concept. Each project starts with community input (probe), then the idea is tested to see if it’s viable (pilot) and then, with community, the work begins (project).

Volunteers planted over 1,000 native plants, shrubs & trees along the edge of Otonabee river in Peterborough as part of the largest Depave Paradise project in Canada June 1. Photo by Yvonne Hollandy.

The 2018 Downtown Vibrancy Steering Committee was composed of 12 people representing four local organizations and five local businesses.

“We have created new partnerships this year and will continue to work with the talented and passionate members of our community,” Dawn says.

The group hosted a planting day event June 1, during which community members planted more than 1,000 plants to complete a new rain garden that was de-paved in the fall.

There will be more volunteer days in July as project members break ground on the 2019 project at Euphoria Wellness Spa. The corner of King and Water streets will be transformed into a mini park that will host an art installation celebrating the canoe and its roots in the Anishinaabe culture of the area.

To find out more details about July volunteer dates e-mail Dawn at dawn.pond@greenup.on.ca.

“We asked people to envision the most vibrant downtown. Seven guiding themes came out of the community feedback:

  • Streetscape
  • Public Space
  • Transportation
  • Landscapes
  • Sustainability
  • Public Art
  • People.

“These themes are guiding our work we do and, ultimately, if we can address them all within the next three years’ worth of projects, that would be a great outcome,” Dawn says.

“Community is an essential part of these projects and having community volunteers help to create these green spaces is an empowering experience that brings people together.”

To see a brief video on the June 1 Depave Paradise project featuring Dawn and local pollinator Carlotta James, click here.

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