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Retail Plaza as Gateway to the Community of Stouffville? Concerns regarding By-Law Amendment

Retail Plaza as Gateway to the Community of Stouffville? Concerns regarding By-Law Amendment

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Retail Plaza as Gateway to the Community of Stouffville? Concerns regarding By-Law Amendment
Retail Plaza as Gateway to the Community of Stouffville? Concerns regarding By-Law Amendment

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Published by: Arnold Neufeldt-Fast on Jun 15, 2014
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06/15/2014

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TO:
 
Andrew McNeely
, CAO, Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville;
Isa James,
 Planner, Urban Design, Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville
FROM:
 Arnold Neufeldt-Fast, 672 Millard St., Stouffville, L4A 0B2
DATE:
 June 14, 2014
RE: Retail Plaza--
 
PUBLIC MEETING
TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 2014 AT 7:00 P.M. COUNCIL CHAMBERS, 111 SANDIFORD DRIVE)
Dear Mr. McNeely (CAO, Town of W-S) and Mr. Isa James (Planner, Town of W-S), The following submission is in regards to the proposed by-law amendments 
 for the establishment of a retail plaza at 
 5182, 5192, 5226 Stouffville Road at Hwy. 48 in Stouffville. Currently, retail plazas are prohibited at this location
—the town’s “Gateway Mixed Use Area.”
 The
Town’s
Policy direction for the Gateway Mixed Use Area is for
“the creation of a unique and special
mixed use district which promotes commercial development integrated with residential uses. Special
architectural and landscaping treatment is required to strengthen the area’s identity and improve the quality of the public realm” (
Commercial Policy Study Update, Feb., 2013, p. 25).
Figure 1: Hwy 48 and Stouffville Rd (or Main St) --Proposed Site
The intersection of Highway 48 and Stouffville Road is of strategic importance to the Town as the main entrance to the Community of Stouffville
—its “western approach
.
 
I want to speak to the current proposal’s
ability address the criteria above, namely,
to a) strengthen the area’s identity, and b)
improve the quality of the public realm. a.
 
Architectural developments at this key intersection must pick up on
Ringwood’s historic identity. The key
structure which has defined this intersection and approach to the
 
Figure 2: Historic gateway building to Stouffville for more than 150 yrs
 
Community of Stouffville is the old corner store and post-office building (later
Da Classic Scoop
) which was demolished in 2008 (see picture below). Other buildings which have given this location identity are the Brownsberger Homestead (behind the new Dodge/Jeep Dealership on Millard), the 1857 School House on Hwy. 48, and the recently demolished Bartholomew Homestead at the corner of Stouffville Road and McCowen. Each of these structures is pictured below, as well as a sample old, downtown Stouffville photograph, and a currently boarded up Ringwood home on Main Street. These older buildings are pivotal to any
definition of the location’s identity and
must be the architectural inspiration for development at this corner. The current proposal
its roof lines, peaks, and tower, for example, bear little if any resemblance to the particular design-history of Ringwood or Stouffville. For example, the
unique large, white “quoin” cornerstones and red
 brick of the Bartholomew Homestead, Brownsberger Homestead, and schoolhouse are an important local architectural feature. They can be replicated: recently, the new Shell
Station on Main Street and the Region’s water pumping
station on McCowen Road picked this up in their respective designs. (Another example of actual and relevant historical features are captured in the new Fire Station; see Barkey, ed.,
 for other examples). The striking new PACE buildings on Glad Park Avenue, for example, also draw strongly on old downtown Stouffville (see brick work, windows, three story; picture below). However these unique, old Main Street local features are absent from the Hwy 48 / Main Street proposal--an area specifically designated to play an identity-shaping role for the Western Approach to the Community of Stouffville. A retail plaza is prohibited at this corner because the Gateway is to introduce, be the face-of, set the bar, and give definition for the community, with a mix of both commercial and residential. I suggest that *if* a retail plaza be allowed at this corner, that the architectural style *must* complement and support the historic character of the community, and be closely related and architecturally traceable to the building history of our community, as noted above (with pictures below).
Note again the Commercial Policy: “Special architectural … treatment is required.”
 Moreover,
the community has planned the corner as a special “mixed
-
use” district.
 Structures that have a second or third floor could include both commercial and residential. This is missing in the current design
and as such does not match the criteria set out for the Gateway area. That being said,
 
Figure 3: Brownsberger House (original settler home) Figure 4: Bartholomew Homestead
 
structures which in some way replicate the mixed-use aspects of old Main Street need not rule out retail. But commercial development at this corner must in some way be integrated with and /or support residential uses
which leads to the next point. b.
 
“The quality of the public realm” must be “improved” by
any development at this corner. The Ringwood area, especially at Baker Hill and Main (only 550 metres away) will soon be home to hundreds of new townhouses and apartments (apartments are already completed at 25 Baker Hill, and now under construction at 35 Baker Hill; 200-plus town houses are also already under construction). This corner of Hwy.
48 and Main Street will be in the “walking
-
shed” of hundreds of residents. Any development at Hwy 48
and Main Street, as per the Commercial Policy, must support the
“quality of the public realm.” A normal
definition of a retail plaza does not measure well on that criterion. The space should be safe, comfortable and interesting to walk to (and around) and enjoy
the way a classic square (e.g., Palmer Square, Princeton
where I am this coming week) with significant green space, fountain, benches etc, parallel parking to the shops, wide side-walks in front of all the shops
and shops that address the street. Such a des
ign supports the “quality of the public real
m,
 and stands in stark contrast to
Stouffville’s Smart Centre and retail plaza at the south
-east corner of Ringwood and Main Streets. Note: the corner of Baker Hill and Main Street is already in walking distance (i.e., within 500 metres
at Sandale) of six drive-
thru’s. The cur
rent proposal adds yet two more to this end of town (and they also address the street). Each drive-thru diminishes the quality of the public realm, and is a significant barrier to the enjoyment of a place by residents who would like to either walk or cycle safely and with enjoyment. Drive-
thru’s no longer
have a place in urban Stouffville as we design our town to become a much more walkable, bikeable community. The current proposal appeals almost exclusively to those who leave their homes in vehicles: there are parking spots and/or drive-
thru’s
toward the street
(large, and “uninteresting” spaces between
Figure 5: New residential development

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