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.