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BIA looking to fill in flower beds

Councillor Andrew Marks says the goal is to increase the number of benches and bike racks

With hopes of creating more useable space, as well as repairing crumbling curbs, the Downtown Timmins BIA is pushing for a new plan.

Councillor Andrew Marks, who is a municipal representative on the BIA board, made a brief presentation during Tuesday's city budget meeting which outlined plans for re-purposing some of the 'islands' seen throughout the BIA.

"Of note, there are eight current islands that have been filled in or cemented in the past, so that activity has taken place," he told council.

Many of the islands contain flower beds and trees for beautification purposes, but Marks said in recent years, the BIA has come up with new initiatives. 

He said the BIA has purchased 60 large flower pots which are positioned in the spring, and removed in the fall, which positively contributes to snow removal efforts in the area, and emphasized that the downtown greenery isn't at risk.

"There are several of these islands that do contain trees, that the BIA is proposing not be removed. They certainly don't want any trees to be removed. They want them to maintain and grow," he said.

Getting into specific areas, Marks stated on the south side of Third Avenue, between Pine and Cedar, two flower beds could be filled in to make room for 'street furniture'.

"Street furniture in the BIA world is known as benches, bike racks, or garbage cans. So we're creating a more walk-able pedestrian zone that is free for use."

Several photos were provided in the report, some of which showing major deterioration of curbs and borders along the islands.

"Curbs are absolutely falling apart in Downtown Timmins, and that's simply because of wear and tear, its because of plowing, its for a variety of reasons. But they have not been repaired, and in the spring when the city comes in to put more soil or muck or mulch, it all leeks right out," said Marks.

"So we're trying to create some solutions that are forward thinking for the area, that are going to minimize future costs."

A neverending topic of discussion in most downtowns is parking. The proposed modifications would not affect the total amount of parking space available.

"We're not proposing added parking spaces at this time because of what's underneath them and where lights have been installed," said Marks.

He said the estimated costs for re-purposing the islands aren't known at this time, but that there were precedents to refer to.

Cigarette Butt GardenMany of the garden bed islands in the BIA area become home to hundreds of discarded cigarette butts each summer. Andrew Autio for TimminsToday

"Unfortunately, the BIA and myself, I don't have numbers to put beside them. I'm hoping that between now and the next couple of days, there are some potential records that we could look at to see what curb replacement costs, or filling in one or two has cost," said Marks.

There were no comments from council.

"We'll wait for the BIA board to move their strategic plan a little further, and we'll seek some discussions with staff on some of those possible costs," said Mayor Steve Black.

If ultimately approved, many of the ground level flower beds would be filled in with cement, which would remove some colour from the BIA. It is something that the organization is cognizant of.

"There will still be a budget for some flowers, but because of the investments the BIA has made into the moveable flower pots, we are actually seeing more beautification that is portable. Coming in during the spring, and leaving in the fall which then helps with the whole winter snow cleaning," Marks said after the meeting.

"We're focusing on creating spaces that can be more use-able for pedestrians, for walking, for movement. Around corners, where there is congestion. To be able to add in a garbage can for beautification is important in BIA. More benches, more bike racks, we're all trying to focus on that."

The item will likely be back on an upcoming council agenda.

"I'm waiting to see what the costs are because during a budget process, the almighty dollar is certainly very important," said Marks.