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Inclusion Now: Downtown could become more accessible

Grant Genova is an architect who heads the newly formed Universal Design NL taskforce. He’s also a part of an effort by Common Ground to redesign part of downtown St. John’s.
Grant Genova is an architect who heads the newly formed Universal Design NL taskforce. He’s also a part of an effort by Common Ground to redesign part of downtown St. John’s.

Downtown St. John’s isn’t exactly known for being accessible, but one area could possibly be improved, if a redesign concept gains support.

Inclusion Now

At the moment, a group is essentially re-imagining the area stretching from the Neal Building on Harbour Drive to the TD Building on the corner of Water, Duckworth and Prestcott streets.

Started under the name “Staging Ground,” there is concept art and The Telegram was told a feasibility study expected.

This is before any formal proposals or design work and consideration by the property owners.

The work is more specifically looking at a possible redesign of the Neal Building (the one that looks like a lighthouse), along with three neighbouring buildings, all owned by Slate, who also hold the TD Building.

Members of Common Ground are leading the project. And architect Grant Genova, who is also the chair of the provincial Universal Design Taskforce, is taking part. He said his overall vision would not only consider the buildings that exist, but also re-think the parking lot area near the harbour. The area, he said, could offer an artisan marketplace, businesses and restaurants, with elevators to more easily access Harbour Drive from Water Street, and vice versa.

It’s a steep climb to get from Water Street to Duckworth Street in downtown St. John’s.

Genova said one of the problems with downtown is that when new projects are underway, they’re contained within the boundaries of the property without considering the neighbouring structures.

“In reality, it needs to go beyond that, because things downtown are very tight. So if you're going to solve accessibility, you've got to go beyond your particular footprint,” he said.

One of the biggest accessibility issues facing the downtown area is the steep incline, but Genova sees that as something that can be overcome.

“The challenge of St. John’s is that within one city block, you go approximately 35 feet of a drop so given that, that just means we need relative to the public, more vertical circulation,” he said, pointing to towns and cities throughout the world, like San Diego, changing to help pedestrians move about.

“There might be large-platform escalators eventually that you'll see in St. John's, but definitely there's exterior elevators that are necessary,” he said.

 

By Louis Power and Ashley Fitzpatrick

lpower@thetelegram.com

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

 

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