Adam: Finally, the ByWard Market renovation will soon be underway

“We could be in a position to have shovelfuls of land for these projects in 2025.”

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It’s been three years since the city council presented a plan to transform ByWard Market. But if you thought the rejuvenation of the historic shopping and entertainment district had been forgotten, the city has news for you.

Next year, work should begin on the first part of the $129 million. ByWard Market Public Realm Plan in four priority areas identified by the city: William Street streetscape; Urban landscaping in the Market Square; York Street; and parking on Clarence Street. Amanda Mullins, public realm office manager for ByWard Market, says the city has provided $2.6 million to begin detailed streetscape design to set the stage for construction next year.

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“The important piece in terms of confirmed funding and what will be delivered in 2024 is the detailed design. And we could be in a position to have shovels in the ground for these projects in 2025, subject to coordination with the ByWard Market District Authority on the impact on businesses,” Mullins said in an interview.

Which means the market will become a construction zone in the near future, and both local businesses and customers will have to adapt. But the fact that the plan is going ahead is great news for companies that see it as key to the future of the market and have been eager for its implementation. “It’s a project to rejuvenate ByWard Market aesthetically and physically, and we want to make the plan a reality,” said David Mangano, co-owner of GRAND Pizzeria & Bar.

The $129 million plan, approved by council in January 2021, is an ambitious makeover that stretches from George Street at Sussex Drive to St. Patrick Street, all the way to Dalhousie Street. It includes two entrance gates at Rideau Street and Sussex, and Sussex at St. Patrick/Murray Streets. Other parts include the reconstruction of William Street; the reinvention of ByWard Market Square; a complete overhaul of George and York to become primarily pedestrian streets; creation of a public square in York; the greening of the streets; and remodel the city parking lot into a public place. In essence, parking spaces would become new public spaces and plazas, limiting the number of cars on the market.

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All of this will take 15 years to complete, according to Mullins. But the first phase the council wants to undertake now will take five years. It should be noted that George Street, one of the main thoroughfares in the market, will not be part of the first phase of the project.

While action on the plan is important progress, funding has not yet been secured. When council approved the original plan three years ago, the federal and provincial governments were seen as key sources of money. Partnerships with the private sector were also discussed. Apparently that’s still the goal.

Even if the city doesn’t need to raise $129 million immediately, it needs substantially more than the $2.6 million it has provided so far for priority projects it plans to complete over the next five years. For now, the city could not or would not say how much the first part of the project will cost. But once the design work is completed, much more money will be needed before construction begins. Mullins says the city will work with the ByWard Market District Authority “review all funding streams, including those at high levels of government” for priority projects.

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The scope of the city’s ambition for ByWard Market is impressive, especially considering the conceptual drawings that accompany the plan. But saying is one thing and doing is another. There is a ton of money to raise, but the fact that the city is talking about shovels in the ground next year would suggest confidence in getting some funding.

If the city can pull it off, ByWard Market will become an even more iconic shopping, entertainment and tourism center to grace the capital. Hopefully the first part of the plan will be completed in time for the ByWard Market’s 200th anniversary in 2027.

Mohamed Adam is a journalist and commentator from Ottawa. Contact him at [email protected]

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