York Urbanist

Gateways for Streetscapes

Key to the success of streetscapes is creating identity.  Re-enacting heritage of Southern Ontario towns has been repeated, so identity becomes a defining element for any small/quaint business district.  Small and quaint can become vibrant and memorable, but we have to give the visitor a reminder of where they were.

First is Waterloo downtown.  The downtown exudes heritage values, but is occupied primarily by students who are thinking in the now, not so much about history of their town.  Heritage elements are less important than giving the users a sense of place.  It can be done at an intersection. Elements of the intersection invite pedestrians and drivers to cross over into the downtown.

In the case of Kelowna, a new business district was emerging.  But the traffic along a limited access highway became both an impediment for crossing and shot visitors past the new district.  A solution was a pedestrian bridge that would excite the street travellers and allow access from a recreation centre to the cross-road commercial district.

In Centre Wellington, Fergus has an historic identity on the Grand River. The proposed gateway was intended to wrap the history with the river in the foreground through a memorable gateway arch. 


Remember, a gateway is not only the first glimpse of the downtown, but also the final vision.    The key to a successful downtown is making a memory for its visitors. Be bold! The last thing they see should be lasting.