Co-written by Giovanni Paquin
SAINT JOHN – Last Wednesday was the project launch for one of the most exciting urban planning projects in Atlantic Canada. The City of Saint John kicked off PlanSJ: Our City, Our Future – a two-year initiative that will bring the City’s badly-outdated municipal plan in line with current realities and modern planning principles.
Saint John’s current Municipal Plan received Council approval in 1973 and was based on the assumption that the City’s population would grow to some 250,000 residents. Today, almost 40 years after the plan came into effect, the City’s residents number 68,000 – less than one third of the plan’s anticipated total. With faulty projections and dozens of subsequent amendments, the current plan has slipped into obscurity over the years and has failed to adequately guide development in a manner that best serves the interests of Saint John residents.
That’s all about to change.
Last Wednesday’s project launch was an all-day event that featured the official unveiling of a project storefront in the afternoon, followed by a project launch in the evening where residents were introduced to the project and invited to give their feedback through community mapping panels and feedback forms. As is the case with any public event, speeches were also on the agenda, including the Mayor and members of the Project Team (the Project Team is led by the City of Saint John Planning and Development Department and its consulting team, Toronto-based Urban Strategies Inc. and New Brunswick-based ADI Limited).
Perhaps the single most interesting element of this project to date is the PlanSJ storefront located in Brunswick Square. The high-trafficked area (it’s sandwiched between a Tim Horton’s and a Starbucks!) will serve as ground zero for the project and will provide a permanent location where the public can access information and provide input into the community planning process. The front half of the storefront is a gallery-type space featuring information panels and a computer terminal where residents can browse the project website and leave feedback via webcam. PlanSJ is one of the few planning projects in Canada, if not North America, to feature a project storefront and has generated a great deal of excitement so far.
PlanSJ “will be guided by the community,” according to the first project newsletter, so for those who were unable to attend last week’s launch, there’ll be plenty more opportunities to have your voices heard over the next 18 months. We’ll do our best to post about upcoming events in advance. Alternatively, you can also visit the PlanSJ website (coming soon) to keep up to date.
photos by Giovanni Paquin