Bear Street Shared Street
Reconstruction of Bear Street kicked off in April 2020 and will continue through to the late fall.
Follow the progress at BrandNewBear.ca
The project will replace all underground sewer and water mains, add soil cells for better irrigation of more trees and landscaping, more and better street lighting, additional public seating areas and areas where restaurants can apply to have patio seating.
There will be no curbs and no centre line, and the tile/slabs will create an environment encouraging pedestrians to cross anywhere.
There will be seasonal elements that will allow more parking to be added in winter months. The temporary seating platforms on Wolf and Caribou streets will not be installed between Bear Street and the alleys in 2020.
Project Duration: The project will proceed April to November 2020, and May to June, 2021, for landscaping and street furniture.
Sign Up for Updates:
Banff residents, businesses and visitors are encouraged to register for updates on the project: visit Subscribe for Updates and select register for "Notify Me" for Bear Street Reconstruction Updates.
Bear Street Reconstruction Approved to Proceed
The Bear Street Reconstruction Project was formally approved on January 27, 2020, when Banff Town Council approved the annual operating and capital budgets. However, even though the Construction Contractor was selected from the 2019 Request for Proposals (RFP), the spread of the coronavirus and consequent COVID-19 global pandemic resulted in the Town of Banff paused the project. The Town of Banff declared a State of Local Emergency and Banff Town Council reopened the budgets in order to cut costs to reduce property taxes for our community facing a protracted recession and unemployment.
Although many Town of Banff infrastructure projects and operating services will be cancelled for 2020 when Council finalizes the budgets in May, Council has directed the Bear Street Reconstruction project to proceed.
Why the project is proceeding:
- Work during the COVID crisis will have less disruption to Bear Street tenants and residents, than if undertaken in a normal year or during Banff’s recovery period.
- The project will employ 90% Bow Valley residents for construction crews, during the protracted recession and widespread local unemployment.
- Reconstruction of a major street now will minimize impact on Banff’s destination reputation while international borders are closed and visitors are asked to stay home.
- The completion of the project will help position the Banff economy for recovery after pandemic.
- Timing is capitalizing on low interest rates used to finance the project.
- Bear Street stakeholders recommended the project should proceed during the pandemic.
Read the summary of the March 20, 2020 Emergency Bear Street Stakeholder Meeting on COVID-19 (PDF)
Hours: The hours of construction are permitted from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (Monday to Friday). Periodic work on Saturdays may occur to help accelerate the project where possible. At this stage, no construction is planned for on Sundays.
Pedestrian Access: Pedestrian access will be maintained to businesses through the project, with periodic closures if underground work required temporary closure. Similar to the Banff Avenue project in 2007-08, pedestrian routes will periodically include gravel segments over temporary surfaces. COVID distancing protocols for pedestrians may require one-way pathways, temporary closures or detours if two-metre distancing cannot be maintained.
Roadway: Access on the Bear Street roadway will be maintained as long as possible. When construction and excavation begins, the majority of the roadway will be closed and fenced. Initial activity includes work on the water, sewer and drainage systems, which run the length of the street. Bear Street intersections will close at different stages in the project, beginning with the Caribou Street intersection closing this week for two weeks.
Parking: Street parking will be removed as the construction area expands. The Bear Street surface parking lot will be closed for the duration of the project. Access to the underground parkades on Bar Street will be maintained much of the time, however, there will be periods when they need to be closed in order to work on the road and underground connections near the entrances. In order to accelerate the project construction, closures of the parkades will be longer than originally anticipated. Property owners will be notified about closures in advance, and they are asked to notify tenants.
Parking on Caribou and Wolf streets will move to 15-minute time limits. The temporary platforms for patio and public seating will not be installed on Caribou and Wolf streets in 2020. In addition to nearby parking in the Bear Street Parkade, Bow Avenue and the Health Unit, the Cascade Shops is offering reserved and on-demand paid parking in the mall’s parkade, potentially beneficial for property owners and tenants on Bear Street that will have underground parkade access disrupted. (Contact Martin Halliday of Cascade Shops: 403-804-9400 or 403-270-5916).
Construction during COVID-19 crisis
- The priority during the project is the safety of construction workers, residents and people who work on the street. The project has implemented enhanced health, proximity and hygiene protocols for construction crews, monitored throughout the project.
- Site supervisors will regularly review COVID-19 requirements with work crews and contractors, including special equipment and protocols used when workers are unable to maintain 2-metre distance from other workers.
- Sidewalk controls and barriers will maintain physical distancing between workers and the public, and fenced pathways will be positioned for social distancing between members of the public. At certain times, this may require one-way pathways, detours and closures, if the ability to maintain 2-metre distancing cannot be provided.
Everyone is reminded to keep 2 metres/6 feet away from others when traveling through Bear Street and the construction zone.
- The Bear Street Shared Street project (called a Woonerff for five summer trials) will help pedestrians, cars and cyclists become equal users of the commercial road.
- In addition to the beautification of the street, traffic-calming features will make vehicles drive at very slow speeds, pedestrians will have the right-of-way, and cyclists will travel comfortably through the space.
- Research of conversions to pedestrian-friendly streets in other communities show increased pedestrian safety, visitor enjoyment, and an economic boost to businesses.
- The project will replace all underground sewer and water mains, add soil cells for better maintenance of more trees and landscaping, more and better street lighting, additional public seating areas and areas where restaurants can apply to have patio seating.
- There will be no curbs and no centre line, and the tile or slabs will create an environment encouraging pedestrians to cross anywhere.
- There will be seasonal elements that will allow more parking to be added in winter months.
- Darren Enns, Director of Planning and Development
- Adrian Field, Director of Engineering
- Pierre-Hughes “PH” Gagnon, Bear Street Project Manager
- Rick Williams, Business Liaison Officer
- Janice Carson, Senior Communications Specialist
- This project will follow design elements set out by the Banff Refreshing standards, which have been in place for 15 years. Incorporating these principles will provide a harmonious streetscape within Banff’s relatively compact downtown core.
- Design principles include:
- Shifting vehicular space to pedestrian and amenity space
- Enhancing street drainage
- Removing curbs and maintaining street and sidewalk areas on the same grade
- Adding zones for removable patio seating designated to restaurants that apply for additional seating
- Additional public seating areas
- Paving patterns and street features to slow vehicle traffic;
- Additional bicycle parking
- Safer crossing environments for pedestrians
- Introduction of trees and vegetation to the streetscape
- Additional street lighting
- Banff Refreshing-style street furnishings (public benches, waste bins).
Public input on project for budget consideration
Members of the public were invited to present their viewpoints to the December 17 meeting of Town Council reviewing the project before budget decisions.
Public input on marketing & communications
Bear Street businesses and residents were invited to provide input on a draft communications and marketing plan to promote the street during redevelopment. Administration revised the communications and marketing plan based on input received over 6 meetings with Bear Street tenants and property owners. This recommendations were presented to council on December 17: Revised Communications and Marketing Tactics for Bear Street Reconstruction, with Stakeholder Input (PDF).
Public input on Reconstruction Design
The Town held 13 hours of public input sessions in February and March 2019 to compile feedback on design options.
See the Open House Information Boards (PDF). On March 25, 2019, council was presented a What We Heard (PDF) report. Administration also provided options for the design in response to the feedback in a Council Report (PDF).
Public input on shared street (woonerff) trials
Residents and businesses were surveyed on the trials of adding summer seating on Bear Street, Caribou Street and Wolf Street over four summers. The input helped revise final designs of the project. The temporary seating platforms on Wolf and Caribou streets will not be installed between Bear Street and the alleys in 2020.
- Following four summers of trials with temporary features, the Town developed a proposed street redesign. In January 2019, council provided direction on parking requirements. Administration developed conceptual design options and compiled public feedback in February and March 2019.
- The Town of Banff Council selected a preferred design after review of public input and maintained the timeline of construction in 2020, to occur at the same time as renewal of underground drainage, sewer and water main systems.
- Summer 2019 was the fifth and final year of the Bear Street Woonerf trial. A trial of temporary seating platforms was also held on adjacent Wolf and Caribou streets.
During the annual Service Review of all departments, on December 17, 2019, Town Council asked for the Bear Street Reconstruction project to be brought to budget deliberations for final review.
- Watch presentation
- Bear Street Shared Street Update (PDF)- Updated Dec. 17 (Report for Council Service Review )
On January 27, 2020, Town Council approved the annual budget, including:
- an increase in the reconstruction budget to a total of $7.8 million, and
- a communications and marketing budget of up to $550,000 to maintain customers and clients visiting Bear Street businesses and services during the construction in 2020.
Following a detailed Request For Proposals (RFP), the Town has selected a construction firm to undertake the work in 2020. The construction is estimated to last up to 11 months. The schedule of construction and the phases of work on sections of the road will be determined when the contractor is selected. Examples of designs in the RFP document:
- Summer Diagram of Street Redesign - Nov. 2019 (PDF)
- Winter Diagram of Street Redesign - Nov. 2019 (PDF)
- Full RFP document (PDF - 53MB)
Testing the concept of a "Woonerff"
Turning the 200 Block of Bear Street into a shared street was one of the recommendations in the Transportation Master Plan. The Town has been testing the design and impact of the "Woonerff" to assist with long-term decision making.
Woonerf is a Dutch word used to describe a shared street, or "living street."
The concept is used throughout Europe and is gaining popularity in North America. Banff is a very walkable community, so it was a natural step for us. It was also an unusual word that helped it stand out and draw attention to this new project.
The Dutch word is actually spelled Woonerf (with one ’f’) but we used ’ff’ to mirror the way we spell Banff!
Why Bear Street?
Bear Street is not considered a main arterial road in the downtown core and receives a fraction of the vehicle and pedestrian traffic of nearby Banff Avenue or Lynx Street.
Living streets, or shared roads, are designed to foster more sustainable, active modes of transportation, and enhance the vibrancy of downtown spaces.
Studies have shown that making streets more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians has a positive economic impact for businesses on the street.
In addition, a more pedestrian-friendly road in our downtown provides an additional attraction for visitors to popular Banff Avenue in peak season.
Four years of trials
Summer 2019 was the fifth and final year of the Bear Street Woonerff trial. A trial was also held on adjacent Wolf and Caribou streets.
- December 2019: Bear Street Shared Street Update (PDF)
- August 12, 2019: Draft Communications and Marketing Options for 2020 Bear Street Construction (PDF)
- April 23, 2019: Bear Street Public Feedback Council Report (PDF) - postponed from March 25 meeting to April 23
- January 28, 2019: Shared Street Concept, Council Report (PDF)
- January 22, 2019: Shared Street Conceptual Drawings (PDF)
- February/March Open House Information Boards (PDF)
- February 26, 2018: Utilities Scope of Work, Council Report (PDF)
- June 11, 2018: Number of On-Street Parking, Council Report (PDF)
- April 13, 2015: Trial for Transforming Bear Street into a Shared Road, Council Report (PDF)
- August 28, 2013: Transportation Master Plan (PDF)