Monday, 3 December 2012

Multiplex Multitasks

Now that the North Side (politically correct term for Port Arthur) is the agreed location for the Multiplex, there is another opportunity to explore, one which was employed on North Vancouver’s waterfront, just behind the Quay market. A train runs under the ICBC building. There are wide walkways on either side of the building decorated with greenery, so pedestrians still have a number of ways to comfortably cross to the waterfront when a train comes, without having to walk up winding ramps.

Across a four-lane road, the Esplanade, there is a covered walking bridge which joins the ICBC walkway on its east side.  Although infrequent, unlike Thunder Bay, the trains, and its tracks, are nearly invisible to pedestrians. Google the map for 171 West Esplanade, North Vancouver, and you can see part of the track before it disappears into the building.

CDI architecture and the City has the opportunity to take advantage of the Multiplex construction and do what could have been done with the Ontario Government building on Red River Road. It could have been built across Water Street and the train tracks. Of course this would have been an added expense, but would have made the walking bridge by the pagoda unnecessary.

Now great opportunities exist with the Multiplex if it were built over Water Street and the train tracks. On either side, wide walkways would allow for lots of pedestrians to safely cross, especially during festivals, like the Blues Festival or on Canada Day without having to cross the busy street. For the tourists staying at the new hotel and for those condo owners, easy access to the multiplex and the downtown core would certainly improve business. And it would certainly be more attractive, useful, and wider than a separate bridge proposed at the base of Van Norman Street.

As the Multiplex is such a large construction it would be possible to have indoor walkways as well as outdoor walkways on both sides. Michael Sobota suggested our dilapidated and oddly located conservatory be relocated on the top of the multiplex. I would suggest the conservatory be built on the walkways, stretching along one side or both. There’s plenty of sun! And watching trains from the current bridge is a lot of fun, especially for tourists, so easy access to views along the walkways would be important, along with lines of view to the Sleeping Giant and Prince Arthur’s Landing. 

Another added benefit of stretching the multiplex across the road and tracks is that it would free up space along Cumberland Street, across from the Hydro building. Shops could be built along this strip, built in such a way as to compliment the Multiplex and/or the Hydro building, and allow for easy access to the Multiplex, like a gateway. Or it could be a turned into a small town square, complete with a multifunctional space and a small green area with trees.

Now that the site has been chosen, the architects can step back a bit, and see what opportunities come from having a building so close to the shore and situated in what we hope will one day be a busy and active part of town. And we have noticed that no change is minor. With the opening of the Sovereign, and the Foundry, the area has already become more attractive, drawing people downtown.

In North Vancouver, Lonsdale Street used to be deadly boring after 5pm, until Brazza Gelato opened up. The owners, former Enron executives who studied gelato making in Italy, kept their doors open until 11pm, and miracle of miracles, they had customers lined up out the door until closing. Neighbouring businesses saw the traffic and activity and kept their doors open later as well. Within a couple months, upper Lonsdale became a little hotspot. All because of one shop!

Already the skate park and the splash pool have been dramatic successes. Imagine what the Multiplex could do to both the downtown core of Port Arthur and Prince Arthur’s Landing if it successfully connected the two. 

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