Whitehorse Daily Star

Alternate site for town square proposed

The future of the 2024 town square project in Whitehorse is up in the air.

By T.S. Giilck on February 7, 2024

Revised - The future of the 2024 town square project in Whitehorse is up in the air.

During Monday evening’s standing committee meeting, council members spent about 30 minutes discussing a report from Stephanie Chevalier, the city’s economic development co-ordinator. She outlined two proposed locations for the project.

The first was to continue with the Main Street location used by the city last summer, although there was some negative reaction to the pilot project.

“It allows adjacent food and beverage businesses to participate in the operation, setting up large pop-up patios on the street. A major artwork could be created on the street again to beautify the area,” Chevalier told council.

“The Main Street location would reduce downtown parking by 34 spaces (30 in the closed area and four turned into accessible parking). It requires significant work for municipal engineering and operations crews to close the area and review its traffic management plan,” Chevalier added.

“This would include solutions to compensate the loss of the traffic light between Main Street and Second Avenue, which generated traffic flow disruption last year.

“Finally, this option received very little support from adjacent businesses and market vendors during the engagement process in December 2023.”

The second proposed location is along the riverfront.

“(This) is primarily located between the Yukon River and Front Street, from the Roundhouse building in the north to The Old Fire Hall building in the south,” Chevalier said.

“The location could include the temporary closure of Front Street between Main Street and Steele Street for specific events (two to three events over event period), regulated by the Special Events Road Closure Bylaw (events lasting a maximum of one week).

“This option has been considered as the second-best option by residents, and the best option by businesses in the exit survey,” Chevalier said.

“This location was the preferred location among stakeholders participating in December 2023’s engagement process.”

This choice would require less work from municipal departments, Chevalier said, as it doesn’t include an extended street closure and would not have the same issues with parking, traffic flow and Whitehorse Fire Department response, as in 2023.

“Businesses on adjacent streets would still have the option to set up pop-up patios regulated by the Lease, Encroachment and Property Use Policy. As most activities would take place on the riverfront and wharf, little to no parking spaces would be affected by the town square in this location.

“Temporary closures of a portion of Front Street for special events would result in the short-term loss of up to 17 two-hour metred parking stalls,” Chevalier said.

“Should council choose the riverfront for the 2024 town square location, it would provide an opportunity for the city to evaluate it against Main Street to and further inform a decision on a town square location for 2025, should council wish to continue the project.”

Council members talked the issue ’round and ’round without coming to any definitive decision.

Several indicated they had somewhat of a preference for the Main Street location.

Coun. Ted Laking, who brain-stormed the town square idea in 2023, said his vision includes establishing something like Vancouver’s Granville Island public market.

He temporized between the suggested locations, wondering if there isn’t a compromise solution between the competing concepts.

Coun. Michelle Friesen emphasized the importance of engaging the local First Nations governments on the issue, especially the riverfront locations, which is very important to the culture of the Indigenous peoples.

She noted the city would have to be careful of what date it chose to open the market.

Chevalier said the square would be open for approximately two months, with June 21 and Canada Day as potential opening dates.

She also asked Chevalier whether this is to be a “reconciliation” project. Chevalier said she’s in regular consultation with the local First Nations.

Coun. Kirk Cameron questioned Chevalier on the budget for the project, which would rely on $105,000 from city coffers, with the remainder coming from external sources.

He received somewhat contradictory answers from Chevalier and Mike Gau, the director of development services.

Chevalier suggested the project could be pared down to the $105,000 figure, while Gau said external funding would be required.

That matter was not clarified.

Comments (12)

Up 27 Down 3

Craig on Feb 10, 2024 at 1:53 pm

Please let me turn left onto 2nd.
Wherever this goes, please avoid the traffic mess caused by last year's location on Main between Front and 2nd, that took away the ability to easily turn left onto 2nd ave. at the main/2nd intersection from the area between 2nd and Front. Last year had to drive all the way to Black street a few times to be able to turn left at the light. 2nd is just too busy to safely turn left from intersections with no lights - you have to hope for a pedestrian to come by!

Up 40 Down 1

Yukoner on Feb 10, 2024 at 10:30 am

The problem is that the CIty, as always, decided to do the project without waiting or listening to the citizens and business owners. And they're doing it again, even after "consultation."

Is Mr. Laking aware of the market that happens every Thursday from May-Sept at Shipyards Park? Why reinvent the wheel?
This idea of building a town square is about a hundred years too late. Best to work with what we have.

Up 74 Down 4

JustSayin' on Feb 9, 2024 at 9:17 am

Do you know why tourists flock to Dawson? Is it because Dawson is something out of a novel? It moves towards modernization but keeps its rustic roots. That is what Whitehorse should be doing; if I want to go to a Granville-type market, I go to Granville because they have far more vendors than the city could ever offer.

Do you know what true blue Whitehorse residents want, our old Whitehorse back. No one would break your window when you could leave your doors open. People would help people across the street.

Up 59 Down 5

Chuck on Feb 8, 2024 at 9:20 pm

Please don't call it a town square. All the infrastructure is there at the waterfront to have whatever the thing was that they did last summer. The only difference is it should be a lot cheaper or maybe not cost anything? Other than maybe charging vendors a nominal fee to be there. Perhaps with the money saved we can reduce the property tax increase by .005%. or perhaps two pianos to the middle of nowhere to help celebrate 125 years.

Up 36 Down 5

Heather on Feb 8, 2024 at 1:16 pm

I would like to mention that these closures have certainly do not make it easy for those who are disabled. Gone are the handicap parking sites, meaning that spots are not only reduced but are now as much as a block away. Whatever plan you proceed with should take these elements into consideration.

Up 5 Down 46

Robert Scott on Feb 8, 2024 at 10:08 am

Why not put it up on third ave. from Main Street north. You could start leaving the parking lot entrance open and block it off from there.

Up 73 Down 5

David Griffiths on Feb 8, 2024 at 9:41 am

I'm at a loss to explain the indecision on this. Creation of this town square is being paid for by the city. It costs less to relocate the square to Front Street. Main Street businesses don't lose money. Residents have easy access. It's more scenic on Front Street. In summary, a no brainer; move the square!

Up 88 Down 13

YT on Feb 8, 2024 at 7:02 am

Why is Laking continually trying to make Whitehorse like a southern city?

Up 87 Down 6

Jim on Feb 7, 2024 at 9:57 pm

The economic development co-ordinator apparently only hears what she wishes to hear. “Some” negative reactions? From what I hear there was a resounding “no” to the future closure by affected businesses (other than a couple bar/restaurants). We know that Ted embraces this Main Street closure as his brain child. We also have councillor Friesen who seems to act more like a First Nation liaison to the city than a city councillor. If the city can’t use its own water front investment, then what exactly was the point of taxpayers footing the bill to develop it. Originally it was to be small shops and walking park/dock area which would be what Laking is describing. But as it is now it is not utilized to its full potential. Last summer not only was the 30 parking spots lost, but there was also the week when the city had its food truck event one block away, closing another street. But then again, this city council does not care about traffic congestion or flow.

Up 82 Down 9

Dallas on Feb 7, 2024 at 3:40 pm

More and more I feel the less time I spend in this city the better off I am

Up 53 Down 5

North_of_60 on Feb 7, 2024 at 3:23 pm

The riverfront location is the best Summer Town Square option, and the Summer Solstice on June 21st would be the best opening day. Many events could be scheduled starting then and culminating with a Canada Day celebration.

Up 81 Down 12

John on Feb 7, 2024 at 2:38 pm

Gee I have a better idea. Scrap the whole thing. It is more than likely you will get the same poor showing as you did last year - regardless of where you stick. The upside? We save $105k+.

We do not need to be wasting time and effort on fanciful notions. Hell you can't even agree when to open it.

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