Moncton envisions more people living downtown in future

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Moncton envisions more people living downtown in future

At an early morning meeting that attracted dozens of people on Wednesday, the city announced its new vision for the Moncton of the future.

In this vision, young millennials live in the downtown core, enjoying a car-less lifestyle and green space along the muddy banks of the Petitcodiac.

Sébastien Arcand, senior planner with the City of Moncton, said a concrete vision for the core was a long time coming.

"With the momentum of thedowntown centre, the creation of Downing Street, just the surfers being on the river— it kind of created an interest in downtown."

Aiming for higher density

With that interest should come caution, according to Mayor Dawn Arnold.

"We need to be intentional about that development," she said. "We need to have a plan so that things work together."

One priority for Arnold is the residential density of downtown.

"We need more people living in our downtown."

And if she has her way, many of those people will be young people. Arnold hopes more green spaces, restaurants and businesses will attract more millennials to the core.

"They like to live in a vibrant downtown where they can live, work and play."

Then there's parking

Arnold is also hopeful that young people attracted to the city's design will not bring their vehicles with them.

"Often millennials don't even want a car," she said.

Which would solve one of downtown Moncton's much complained about issues: parking. 

Michelle Parker, the co-owner of Stile Boutique on Main Street, said that where her clients and staff are going to park is a constant concern.

"If there's any event of any kind, and Moncton is fairly small, then all of the parking is sucked up really quickly."    

She understands the city's decision to build the new downtown centre with no additional parking.

Spaces valued for quick stops

"You're parking and you're walking and you're going to stay at this place for two, three, four hours, so you have a commitment."

But customers hoping to pop into a store for a few minutes might think twice.

"I don't necessarily want to invest in the 20-minute, 15-minute, 10-minute walk," Parker said. "I just want to be able to park close enough.

"I'm not saying everything has to be right up against the door, but something that's close enough."

Arnold has looked at the numbers and found the downtown accounts for 1.5 per cent of the city's total land mass, yet brings in 14 percent of the city's tax revenue.

And that's with the 47 per cent of downtown land devoted to parking, which she called "a terrible use of land."

Other ways to get around

She's hoping that developers will build multi-level parking garages or include underground parking in new designs and that more people will ride the bus, walk or cycle.

The city is working on a transportation dispersal plan, which looks at how people go into and leave downtown. The study will also look at parking.

Arcand, the planner, said the city's new design is still in the early stages. Staff will continue to consult with people and developers.

Then they'll get to work, "drafting policies and regulations that will eventually be integrated into the city's municipal and zoning bylaws so to make sure that this plan is not just a vision but it actually has teeth to it."

The plan is expected to be presented to city council before September.