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ONE RESIDENTS Vision & Opinion

Currently within Aurora, this area is called "Library Square".   I would like to suggest the name be changed to "Town Square".  Why?  We don't have one!   A Town Square is a gathering place, ....  

Creating a vibrant “Town Square” in Aurora will be challenging for a number of reasons.  It does the community no good on looking back on who made mistakes and what should have been done years ago.  We must all move forward ... look ahead .. to what is within our Town's best interest decades beyond today.  Be prepared for numerous fights from special interest groups, developers, residents, … Will it be worth it?  YES!  Our Town must stick with its vision and plan for this area to work.

A vibrant “Town Square” will not only become the most significant place within our Town it will also create economic dividends.  Dividends will be negative at the start, but I’m guessing within three decades; if council allows the development of luxury residential condos, cafes, boutiques, and specialty shops; they will pay big time to be close to this area but only if the square is active and well maintained.

Aurora’s challenges are numerous.  Example: Traffic speed, current traffic flows, the width of streets, parking, sidewalks, ground floor adjacent building main entrances and exits.  All paths should point like a star towards the centre of the Town Square.   The proposed Town Square should start a block or more away.  Speed limits should be lowered, walking becomes more enjoyable and pedestrian traffic increases.  Features of the Town Square should be visible from a distance.  Adjacent buildings such as our Library and Cultural Centre, Victoria Hall, all places of worship, ... should look as they are moving towards the square.  To be successful, a square needs to be easy to get to. The best squares are always easily accessible by foot.  Surrounding streets should be narrow; pedestrian crosswalks should be well marked, traffic lights if any should be timed for pedestrians not vehicles, speed limits should be lowered, and most important, safe pick-up / drop-off areas.  A square surrounded by roads of fast-moving traffic (greater then 30km hr) will be cut off from pedestrians and deprived of its most essential element; it’s people.  

The best Town Squares are ones people return to time and again. The only way to achieve this is through a management plan that understands and promotes ways of keeping the Town Square safe and lively. A good Town Square creates a feeling of comfort and safety.  Creating a Town Square that becomes the most significant place to be within our Town, gives the square and Aurora identity and a sense of community. Experts agree that Town identity is vital and absolutely necessary.

Studies have shown that a well-managed Town Square is generally beyond the scope of the average Parks and Recreation Department. This is often why partnerships are established.  Partnerships seek to supplement what the Town can provide with funding from diverse sources.  Example: Rent that includes but not limited to; rent from cafés, markets, small commercial uses on the site, taxes on adjacent properties, film shoots, photo shoots using the Gazebo, fundraisers …

A successful Aurora Town Square can’t be successful with just one design or management strategy.  The world’s best City / Town squares change with the seasons. Skating rinks, outdoor cafés, markets, horticulture displays, art and sculpture help adapt our use of the space from one season to the next.

FLEXIBLE DESIGN:  The designed proposed is flexible.  Use of the Town Square should have the ability to change during the course of the day, week, and year. To respond to these natural fluctuations, flexibility needs to be built-in. Instead of a permanent stage a retractable or temporary stage could be used.   It is important to have on-site storage for movable chairs, tables, umbrellas, sound system, games, signage, cleaning supplies, tools, …  that can be obtained by town staff at a moments notice.

Any Town Square has a variety of smaller “intimate places” within it to appeal to various people. These can include outdoor cafés, chess, exercise space (Tai Chi,) areas to meditate, read, reflect, socialize, fountains, sculpture, gazebo (as proposed to be focal point), or band shell / stage for performances. These attractions don’t need to be big to make the square successful.  The best Town Squares, according to the experts within this field, state there should be numerous small attractions.  Example, a vendor cart and playground when placed together draw people throughout the day.  The experts state a successful square always has a minimum of ten things to do.   This TOWN SQUARE DRAFT proposal has more.

To make this plan more economical and realistic then our Town's Consultant(s) Studies for this area, I had broken the project down into eight phases. Since it would be too confusing to show all phases, I have chosen  to present Phase Six showing the land we actually own.  

From my understanding, both the  old seniors centre including the old library located on Victoria Street, have not been maintained for years.  The elevator is not even working.  There are electrical problems, roofs leaking, bad HAVC, poor insulation, … There is a possibility of asbestos. Both buildings have no architectural or historical significance to our town and province as stated by our Heritage Committee. The cost to renovate these buildings to present building codes, is said to be in the millions of dollars from an estimate researched by staff a number of years ago.   Both these buildings have served their purpose and it is now time to take them down.

Our Town will require public washrooms within this area.  To help reduce demolition, building, and connections costs; I would like to suggest leaving a portion of the basement of the Old Library.  Why?  Your sewer connections, electrical, ... are already present.  Our Town would save thousands from running new lines.  Part of the basement could be used for storage.  You may require a gradual walkway sloping decline to the basement from the Town Square depending on grading.  The roof would be on a slight angle, if required, at the entry for drainage.  The rest of the basement roof area would be flat for a children's play area.  To save space and to lower yearly maintenance, a vertical water feature is along this area.  A public drinking water fountain is also within this location close to the monitored play area.  All plumbing / winter shut off valves would be located within this one area to reduce costs and yearly maintenance.

A large storage unit that also serves as a projection screen is proposed to be built on the west side.  The screen / rectangle storage building helps to hide the negative visual to the west.  When nothing is being projected the screen turns into a historic mural by using sliding panels.  The projection / laser lighting space could be built into the gazebo cobula and removed into storage after the event.  The current grading of this area actually helps.   The screen / storage building would be at the bottom of the hill.  The hill and gazebo serves as natural seating with excellent sightlines to the screen.   

In my opinion, it is important that any new small buildings (washroom / storage / fencing / ... ) contain features of the same architecture as the Gothic / Italian / Edwardian / Victorian architecture that currently exists around the square so everything should blend together.  This area should be an OASIS for "ALL" residents of Aurora.

Most residents and I'm sure the religious congregations nearby on Victoria Street would love a clear view of the square.  This is why it is so important to limit height restrictions on anything that is planted / built.  Imagine yourself in Town Square being able to view the architecture around you without obstructions.

I caution the Town again if they plan to insert a water feature.  A water feature can only be used part of the year and often requires maintenance and repairs.  Example: Winterizing, blowing out lines, de-colorizations, lime build up, dedicated electrical line, pump malfunctions, rust, ... also most important in my opinion is the liability issues.  All water features should quickly drain.  There should be no standing water both for safety and environmental reasons.  Thus, if the Town wants a water feature, I would like to suggest a vertical water feature that takes little room.  Parts of the building demolition aggregates could be used.

It is important that our Town Square have easy safe public transit, taxi, drop off / pick up locations around the square.  Within this example, you will note I am recommending that York Region Transit (YRT) have three new bus stops.  Also a new cross walk has been introduced on Yonge which is timed with the Mosley / Kennedy stoplights.

The back of Victoria Hall has a kitchen.  The Town may want to consider partnering with Starbucks / Tim Horton's franchise to invest in a satellite location.  Exterior seating behind the hall could contain a patio bar and round Victorian style patio tables with colourful umbrellas with Victorian style seating.  The views at this location overlooks the Gazebo, churches, gardens, …  This location now becomes a suggested photo location. Victoria Hall could then display the history / progress of the square including any future plans for this area and Town Park.  

Parking?  Most Town Squares have none but additional parking has been made available on Victoria Street.   If Church Street becomes a one way street as suggested within this draft there is also a possibility of perpendicular parking that will add additional parking spaces.  Would suggest that two one way traffic lanes be present on Church Street to Victoria Street and Mosley Street from Victoria to Yonge. .  

There maybe a possibility of Regional, Provincial, Federal, and corporate assistance. Also suggest, a Town Square Resident Donor program. Example: donation wall, park planter, art work, park bench, park light, table,  ... that the resident / donor would be recognized for if the donation recognition request box was checked off.  Resident / Corporate donation program will continue indefinitely.  Establish a legacy program.   Naming rights for "X" years may also be an option.

As stated previously to council, I would like our Town to consider working with some of our Canadian Universities.  Such as the University of Guelph that has a bachelor's degree program in Landscape Architecture who partner with major architects, along with McGill that has a B.Sc. (Arch.) and M.Arch.(Professional) programs.  Our "Town Square" would be an excellent graduate program project / thesis.  It would be a win-win for both Aurora and the Universities we work with.  Think of the resources / experts that could be brought into our Town to work on this project that we would never be able to afford otherwise.

In conclusion, hopefully this vision will help inspire your own vision and help assist / guide our consultants, architects, builders, planners ... that are hired.   

Thank you for visiting.   Cheers, Eric
Why a Gazebo as the focal point?
  • Appearance: If designed uniquely / architecturally within the square it is possibile that it could become very well known throughout Canada. Example: The cupola (steeple) portion of the Town Gazebo could contain a clock on each side.
  • The cost of constructing and maintaining a Gazebo would be far less in the long run then a water feature that can only be used part of the year.
  • Gazebos were first built over 5,000 years ago by the Romans.
  • It’s a gathering / meeting place.
  • Benefits your health.
  • Provides shade from the sun, shelter from the rain and snow.
  • Offers a quiet place for meditation and conversation.
  • A Town Gazebo offers a little piece of paradise if planed properly.
  • Can be used for teas, picnics, speeches, drama, music, book / poetry readings, ...
  • Place to connect with your community.
  • Both the Square & Gazebo can be rented out for film shoots and wedding photos.
  • Can be an asset to the religious congregations close by.
  • Around the Gazebo is a very large paved circle.  Under this paved circle is piping.  Can you guess what for?  That's right!  When the colder weather approaches; the days become shorter and darker.   The chess / play tables are unbolted and stored onsite.  The outer park benches remain facing the Gazebo.  The complete circle is transformed into a circular Town Square skating rink.  The Gazebo provides an ambience of illumination and digital soft instumental music.  Vendors with food carts; who have purchased a Town permit of course; arrive selling hot refreshemts, hot dogs, chestnuts ...  

Examples of Suggested
Town Square Fixtures Below
Town Square Clock

The diagram below displays our paid consultant concept for this area. 
Concept presented by Consultants / Town Planners
Biography:
Eric McCartney, Project for Public Places, Internet Commons, Town of Aurora,  Google,  Auckland Council, The Guardian, American Planning Association
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