The District of Sparwood wants to know what you think about a proposed revitalization plan for Centennial Square.
Residents, planners and local politicians gathered at the square on February 6 for a winter street party where the proposed concept design was on display and there was ample opportunity to provide feedback on the project.
The square, which hasn’t been updated since 1984, is full of possibilities according to planning assistant Santana Patten.
“Sparwood has a lot of potential, it’s a pretty small little community and it’s just so important to have a core space for people,” she said. “Having the Rec Centre is awesome and Titan Park over on the highway but Sparwood is more than just a big green truck and we want people to see that.”
People snacked on free smokies, marshmallows and hot chocolate as they wandered around the inside of an information tent set up for the event. On one side of the tent, the concept design and various planning related images and information were projected onto a screen. The same images were also printed out and set up in a semi-circle on the other side of the tent.
The first image was titled “What did we hear from YOU?” and included feedback and suggestions for Centennial Square that were collected during previous open house events. In big bold letters, the sign declared that residents wanted “year-round space”, “a place to gather”, and “a sense of community.”
District of Sparwood mayor David Wilks said that they took the stack of suggestions gathered from community members at the various open houses and then handed them to an architect. The next printed images in the semi-circle were concept designs, the result of those suggestions, he said.
The concept designs stood in stark contrast to the current Centennial Square. The proposed changes include a tall tower, equipped with LED lighting to draw people into the downtown core, the addition of greenery in the form of beech trees, ornamental grasses and perennials and various new seating options. Also visible in the conceptual design is an interactive water feature, bistro seating, fire pit and a whole bunch of twinkle lights. There is also the option to turn the whole thing into a skating rink during the winter, either with a natural rink at a lower cost or an artificial rink with ice plant and power for slightly more.
Part of the feedback that the District received was that it’s important to keep the history of Sparwood and of Centennial Square alive as part of the new design. In order to meet that request, the coal miner dedication monument has a new proposed home at the south end of the square.
Interspersed throughout the brightly coloured concept designs were spots for people to leave their feedback on sticky notes. Some residents seemed keen on the new design, writing comments such as “when do we start?” and “I like the lights and skating option. Have some year-round attractive landscaping.”
Others weren’t so sure about the project. One sticky note read, “better things to spend the money on.”
The proposed cost for the revitalization project is approximately $1.3 million, with the artificial ice rink and gender neutral washrooms options adding another almost $1.4 million and $50,000 to the project, respectively.
When asked what the community reaction to the proposal has been, Wilks said that there’s been a bit of a generational divide on the topic.
“The younger core are really excited,” he said. “The older core are skeptical but we expected that. We just want people to give us their ideas. What they like, what they don’t like and if you don’t like it, tell us what you don’t like about it.”
He also added that leaving the square as is isn’t really an option any more.
Patten agreed that feedback from the public is of the utmost importance, adding that the square has been a bit of a sensitive topic for community members. She noted that if the majority of people don’t want something to happen, then it won’t happen.
“I get that it’s a little bit more out there and a little bit more modern than what Sparwood is ready for,” she said. “It’s what the people want. They want seating, they want a space everyone feels comfortable in. Whether that be with a big tower or a green space or covered seating or whatever, we just want people to come into town. That’s what I want to see, that we get people into the core.”
Aside from the various chances to provide feedback at the event, there is also an online survey that all residents of the Elk Valley are encouraged to participate in. The survey can be completed at Sparwood.ca/centennial-square.