In 2013, the City of Welland embarked on an ambitious plan to completely regenerate and revitalize its downtown core and adjacent health and wellness district. The City’s program includes two main vehicles for revitalization - a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) for the downtown and health and wellness cluster; and city-wide urban design guidelines.
Welland's Downtown and Health and Wellness Cluster CIP promotes revitalization, reinforces Downtown as a mixed use, transit supportive area, and encourages uses in the Health and Wellness Cluster that strengthen Welland's health and wellness resources. The CIP includes a public realm improvement plan which identifies opportunities to improve the overall image and sense of community within the project area. Several financial incentive programs designed to stimulate private sector investment activity in the revitalization and redevelopment of the Project Area are also included.
The Urban Design Guidelines provide a practical and flexible tool for assessing new development and redevelopment in the city including the Downtown and the Health and Wellness Area. The guidelines were prepared in parallel to the CIP project – effectively the two projects were undertaken in an integrated fashion, whereby the Urban Design Guidelines for the Downtown and Health and Wellness Area were designed as one of the implementation tools for the CIP. The relevant aspect of Urban Design Guidelines for the CIP was the public realm improvement plan for the Downtown/Health and Wellness Area.
A Unique Geography
The CIP project area covered four distinct areas, each with its own set of unique challenges and opportunities. The Downtown is bi-furcated by the Welland Recreational Waterway (old welland canal), effectively separating the Downtown into two areas. A third area, is the King Street corridor, a 500metre stretch of predominantly commercial development which leads out of the Downtown and connects the CIP’s fourth area, the Health and Wellness Cluster which houses the Welland Hospital and several ancillary facilities. This unique geography includes 120 hectares and includes over 840 properties.
Unique and Innovative Public Realm Improvement Plan
The CIP project includes two main elements – public improvements and private sector incentives. The Public Realm Improvement Plan was intended to provide strategic guidance for capital projects into the future. By implementing the Public Realm Improvement Plan, the City will be able ensure that financial incentives in the CIP will be supported by public sector investments in physical improvements in the Project Area. This is particularly important as properly designed public realm improvements help define the overall perceptions and sense of place within a community improvement project area. They also send a clear signal to the development and business community that the municipality is serious and committed to community revitalization and improvement in the project area. The Public Realm Improvement Plan provided distinct measures for each of the four sub-areas in the project area. The recommended improvements were also tied together to provide a comprehensive list of projects that the City can focus design and funding on over time. The Public Realm Improvement Plan identifies improvements for streetscapes, parks, plazas and public spaces, greenways and trails and public art. In general the plan is designed to:
- Enhance highly visible spaces
- Create a strong sense of place
- Promote pedestrian movement and active transportation
- Provide a safe and interesting environment
- Provide links/connections to the waterway and other important civic destinations.
A Comprehensive Set of Competitive Incentives
Because of the large geography and range of issues, a broad-based, customized set of improvement programs was prepared. Collectively, the incentives are intended to promote intensification, mixed use development and overall private sector re-investment throughout the CIP area. The CIP includes seven distinct CIP programs, including:
- Urban design study grant program
- Façade improvement grant program
- Building improvement grant and loan program
- Residential/mixed use renovation grant and loan program
- Intensification/rehabilitation tax increment grant program
- Planning and building fees grant program
- Development charge reduction program
A Detailed Implementation Strategy
The CIP program also includes a comprehensive implementation program including:
- Façade improvement design criteria and other built form design guidelines
- Marketing strategy to promote the CIP programs
- CIP tools, including brochures, application forms and staff training
Dillon was the overall lead for the assignment and worked with RCI Consulting, who lead the Community Improvement Plan portion of the project, along with BNC Architects who provide support on the urban design guidelines.
In 2015, this project received an Excellence in Planning Award for Municipal Statutory Planning Studies, Records and Documents by the Ontario Professional Planners Institute. Click here to watch the award video.