Co-written by Andrew Matheson and Giovanni Paquin
Take me to the Plaza
I gravitate to the people hangin around
with their cigarettes and coffee in their hands
at the centre of the town
take me there…
– Jonathan Richman
FREDERICTON – Fredericton, a “city” of some 50,000, is the provincial capital of New Brunswick and has been the place we call home for a little more than a year (Giovanni) and six months (Andrew) respectively. As expats from Montreal and Toronto, we’ve definitely had to adjust to the change of pace in lifestyle in the city, but for the most part it’s been a positive experience.
Fredericton has a relatively vibrant downtown filled with clusters of public buildings (Provincial Legislature, Lord Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton Playhouse, City Hall), boutique shops, cafes and some not-so-aesthetically pleasing office buildings. For the most part, the downtown is a walkable place, but it also has a tendency to cater to cars in order to survive, which often results in overlooking some of the more obvious opportunities to develop great public spaces. One such example includes “the Tannery”.
Fredericton developed a diverse manufacturing sector in the 19th century, including a strong shoe industry. The Hartt Shoe Factory (now apartments) led the way and the local tannery helped supply the necessary leather to manufacture the dress shoes.
The Tannery, now just a name and a few brick arches, has long since closed and is now known more for the bars and restaurants (terraces for 5 months of the year) that line the perimeter than for the leather it once produced. Located on King Street in downtown Fredericton, the Tannery has all the basic elements of a successful urban space. The one setback; it’s crammed with cars.
The Tannery is not living up to its potential as one of Fredericton’s Pay-by-Space Parking facilities. As is often the case for less-than-inspired City administrations, the revenue generated through parking is clear; while the spin-off potential of developing a plaza is not as palpable.
The Tannery currently provides approximately 30 of 1,400 spaces within the City’s parking facilities (not counting on-street parking). With the addition of Fredericton’s new Convention Centre, which will provide an additional 450 spaces, maybe the time has come to consider enriching the City’s downtown with an attractive new public space.
photos by Giovanni Paquin