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Posted on: April 21, 2020

Bear Street reconstruction breaks ground

Bear Street Concept Image

Transformation of service centre revitalizes public space, prepares Banff for recovery 

The Town of Banff has launched a major reconstruction project designed to bring significant pedestrian-focused enhancements to a key commercial and service centre in the community. The Bear Street project will break ground this week, and continue through to November 2020, with landscaping and street amenities completed in spring of 2021.

“Following consultation with the community, the Town is moving forward with the Bear Street Reconstruction project this year, and we are looking to accelerate construction wherever possible while the COVID pandemic limits activity in our community,” said Darren Enns, Director of Planning & Development. “The project will transform the street into a much better experience for everyone, and construction occurring now will be less disruptive to businesses and services on the street because most are closed or have limited operations due to COVID-19 restrictions.”

Banff Town Council directed the project to proceed in order to avoid disrupting business during the recovery year ahead, and to access very low interest rates for debt financing.

“The project is also providing construction jobs during a time of layoffs and economic hardship in our region,” said Enns. “A Canmore-based construction contractor ensures the majority of the workers on the site will be Bow Valley residents.”

The 200 block of Bear Street will see the entire roadway and sidewalks excavated to replace aging underground water, sewer and drainage systems that are at the end of their service life. The project will entail landscaping, tree replacement and a “soil-cell” drainage system that diverts storm water to irrigate landscaping and trees and filter water before return to the Bow River. The project will add seating areas, full renewal of streetlights, as well as a complete street and walkway resurfacing. The redevelopment will enable pedestrians, cars and cyclists to become equal users of the road, which will build on Banff’s strengths as a walkable and sustainable community.

The redesigned and revitalized street will also help more pedestrians on the popular Banff Avenue to continue their shopping and dining experience to Bear Street opportunities. Currently, there is six times the pedestrian traffic on Banff Avenue, compared to Bear Street.

“We will experience some short-term ‘pain’ – with the disruption of excavation and reconstruction, but the long-term gains will be significant as we build a brand-new Bear Street,” said Enns. “We are confident that the Bear Street reconstruction, combined with several major private development projects on the block and throughout town, will demonstrate Banff’s optimism that we will come through the COVID-19 crisis and return to a thriving community that maintains our iconic status as one of the most inviting and inspiring places in the world.”

The Town has directed the construction contractor to apply enhanced health, proximity and hygiene protocols during the project, to ensure the safety of all workers, businesses and the public who visit the street during the pandemic.

The essential services that continue to operate on Bear Street during construction will remain accessible through temporary pedestrian pathways, which will include gravel surfaces for periods of time. Pathway controls will be implemented to maintain physical distancing requirements for the public. If distancing restrictions cannot be maintained on pedestrian pathways, one-way paths, detours and temporary closures may be implemented.

The hours of construction are permitted from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (Monday to Friday). Work on Saturdays will occur to accelerate the project where possible, with the aim of completing the project in preparation for the resumption of normal business activity and tourism in the future following the pandemic. At this stage, no construction is planned for on Sundays.

The approach taken for this project was piloted with Town residents and visitors for the past five summers. For more information, please visit Banff.ca/BearStreet.

Background


Project Overview 

  • 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.
  • The project will create more places for people to sit, linger and stroll, which will be an asset to residents and visitors. The street will build on Banff’s strengths as a walkable and sustainable community, extending the transformation that occurred on Banff Avenue in 2008.
  • Reconstruction will replace the aging 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.
  • 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 the downtown provides an additional attraction for visitors to popular Banff Avenue in peak season.

Construction Impact

  • The $9.7 million Bear Street Reconstruction Project includes a full redevelopment of the 200 block of the street.
  • Construction will involve excavation of the entire roadway and sidewalks to replace water, sewer and drainage systems. Fencing will rim excavation areas at all times, but with heavy machinery, excavation and construction, the construction site requires extra attention to maintain everyone’s safety.
  • Vehicle access will be closed for long periods, including the intersections at Caribou and Wolf Streets. The Bear Street surface parking lot will be closed for the duration for the project. Access to the underground parkades will need to be closed at times to proceed with underground utility replacement and roadway construction.
  • The temporary seating platforms on Wolf and Caribou streets will not be installed between Bear Street and the alleys in 2020.
  • Pedestrian access will be maintained to operational businesses and services (as COVID restrictions allow), with fenced pathways, that sometimes are temporary gravel surfaces. Pathways may become one-way, detoured or closed if COVID distancing requirements for pedestrians cannot be maintained.
  • On-street parking on Caribou and Wolf streets will be converted to 15-minute time limits. Parking on portions of these adjacent roads will be removed to allow U-Turns, delivery and taxi loading zones.
  • Additional parking is available at the Bear Street Parkade, Bow Avenue, the Health Unit and in the Cascade Shops mall parkade.

 Project History 

  • 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.

 Design Standards 

  • 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).


A website dedicated to sharing information about the Bear Street Reconstruction Project will be launched by May.

For media inquiries, please contact: 

Jason Darrah, Director, Communications, Town of Banff
Email: jason.darrah@banff.ca / Phone: 403.762.1207

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