- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

“...the River District project is built on the belief that a healthy, economically stable and desirable downtown can be achieved through intentional placemaking activities and strategic investments.”

Phase 2 of the project, scheduled to begin in 2022, has been delayed by some of the numbers we heard at the March 13 City Council meeting.

Phase 2 of the River District redevelopment is the 900 Block of 1st Avenue East.

The right of way in this former rail corridor in the 900 block of 1st Ave East is 12.2 metres (40 feet) wide, and its redevelopment was budgeted for $1.9 million. This included road resurfacing and infrastructure, walkway on both sides of the street, decorative lighting and seating features and a $600-700,000 accessible boardwalk cantilevered over the river between the Sydenham Condominiums on the south end and a private home at the north.

In 2022, the single bid for the construction was over $2.7 million, and the contract was not awarded.

The City's management team revisited the parameters of the project, but as the Director of Operations described it, their cuts were offset by inflationary pressures over the past year.

The lowest 2023 bid was almost identical. In spite of asking for cheaper finishes, surfaces and lamp posts, making seating discretionary and removing some trench drains and decorative features, the bid was still $2,728,724.11 or $951,000 over budget.

City staff recommended a plan for making up for most of the almost $1 million difference with money from road resurfacing, park and bequest reserves and anticipated  provincial grants, some of which  have yet to be approved.

With over $60 million in unfunded capital projects in their plans, that was just “too far” for most of council, with 7 out of 9, including the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, voting against the recommendation.

Phase 2 of the River District redevelopment remains in the 5 year Capital Plan, and will come back in future budget considerations.


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