City gets public input on future of downtown block

40 people crammed around tables at the Manual Training Centre Tuesday night to discuss the future of the downtown city-owned block

On Tuesday night about 40 people crammed around tables at the Manual Training Centre in Cranbrook to discuss ideas about the future of the downtown city-owned block that houses city hall, the police station, the fire hall and Studio Stage Door.

The event was a workshop to aid the city in coming up with ideas as to what direction the city should take in future planning for the space.

It started off with Rob Veg, senior planner for the city, talking about the rough guidelines the city was looking for. After the meeting Veg would take the ideas and draft up a report for council. Then council would presumably draw on those ideas for future planning.

The workshop was originally the idea of Coun. Bob Whetham after the swell of support for the preservation of the city electrical building behind city hall, originally slated to be disassembled.

Whetham wanted the city to get input from the public with a wider focus on the city block, as in the future the city will likely want to expand city hall and either expand or rebuild the RCMP building.

On the topic of the brick building, the consensus seemed to be that it was part of Cranbrook’s heritage and should be maintained or rebuilt or used as a storage building. In that regard it could store equipment for the farmers’ market or equipment for the city.

It could also be a display for old fire engines or a small museum showcase for the history of the surrounding area.

On the topic of the old fire hall, ideas included a new home for the Cranbrook Arts Council, a public multi-use facility or a Cranbrook-focused museum. There was agreement that it could be a draw for downtown, with its heritage character and history.

For the public space, the area between the buildings, some of the suggestions were an artwalk/public art exhibit, a market on 1st Street, additional green space and an expansion of the Pat Casey Park on the south side of city hall. One idea was to pull up the asphalt that lies between the fire hall and city hall and line it with cobblestone and shrubbery to give it a more historical draw.

Overall it seemed many in the workshop wanted the space to have a strong connection with the rest of downtown and to be a showcase and the heart of the city.

And back to the RCMP building, which to many is the most difficult to deal with. The building is showing its age and starting to get cramped so will likely be expanded or rebuilt in the next 20 years or so.

In the shorter term, the RCMP have been wanting a more secure compound for their vehicles, since at the moment most are parked in the alleyway behind the building. Some suggested that the parking lot between the RCMP building and the Studio Stage Door could be turned into that secure compound.

Another option is that the brick building becomes a secure evidence locker for the police.