Summerside developer Peter Brown, left, points out some changes he would like to see on the city’s waterfront to Rob LeBlanc, standing, of Ekistis Planning and Design as Scott Brown looks on during a public meeting on a 25-year vision for the Summerside Port Corporation and the waterfront. Mike Carson/TC Media
SUMMERSIDE — The Summerside Port Corporation is taking the first major step in developing a master plan for the city’s waterfront.
Arnold Croken, president of the port corporation, said the organization has decided to think in terms of long-range.
More than 60 people, including Summerside city councillors and city staff, local developers and business people, along with members of the general public, met for more than two hours Wednesday night to offer their input into a vision for the city.
“Our concentration has been on a major 25-year plan,” Croken said. “We decided that the starting point for us would be to engage the service of some professionals to come in and have a look at what we have in place now and what we might be able to build upon.”
One of the groups involved was Ekistics Planning and Design from Dartmouth, N.S.
Rob LeBlanc from outlined several areas that could be examined and incorporated into a master plan for the waterfront.
“What we’re trying to do is look into the future, 25 years,” he said. “We’ve got, what I would say, is a fantastic land bank - lots of parking, lots of open land, lots of opportunities.”
What he sees when he comes into a community like Summerside is opportunity.
“What should it be in the next 25 years?” he asked.
Leblanc said other municipalities have found there is tremendous economic value in a waterfront, but what is needed is a way to leverage it.
“It’s a great community economic development tool for your community,” he said. “Currently, what we’ve got is underutilized land. You’ve a blank slate, a blank canvass to do some work on. You have a fantastic, historic downtown, which is not well connected to the waterfront.”
Leblanc said that is a common occurrence throughout Atlantic Canadian waterfront communities. The waterfront was primarily an industrial area used and most downtowns turned their backs on the waterfront.
”Communities are looking for ways to reestablish those connections back to the waterfront,” he said. “The open spaces tend not to be very well defined.”
LeBlanc said the boardwalk is a strong asset to the area to build on.
“The developments that are here, barring the marina, haven’t taken great use of the waterfront assets,” he said. “What uses could we bring that would benefit from the waterfront? How can we use the wharves more effectively? What activities will create that economic development potential?”
LeBlanc said the question is how to create a focal point for realizing many of the ideas.
“How can we create new economic development?” he asked. “How can we create high quality parks and open spaces? How do we look at conservation? How can we save our heritage fabric? How do we create new diverse housing opportunities? If we’re going to have new businesses that are happening on the waterfront, in a lot of cases it’s best to have people living there and use the restaurants, use the activities. Can we connect the downtown back to the waterfront through this process?”
Many of those in attendance listed Holland College as a priority asset and “a game changer” in redeveloping the area and it was suggested that courses and training offered at the institution could lay the groundwork for new jobs as a means to bring in young families to live in the area.
Ridding the waterfront of parking lots was another topic, but that raised the issue of where vehicles could be parked. There was some thought of a parkade being constructed to solve that problem.
A sightline to the water was critical according to some of the participants and many suggested that the waterfront be free of housing construction.
Ekistics will take all of the suggestions made at the public session into consideration when developing the 25-year vision plan. LeBlanc said he hoped to have a report back to the city within six weeks.