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Vision 2012: Duncan's cityscape now

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Duncan's streetscape has form but function needs fine-tuned to improve traffic, tourism and livability.

That's the view of heritage builder David Coulson, co-author of the city's urban blueprint Plan Of Action 2002: Revitalizing Duncan's Downtown Neighbourhood.

He cited inaction on long-promised highway "gateways, and recognition of old-town Duncan, in combination with (stopping) over-developed highway frontage/blockage on the strip mall running north-south through the city."

But Coulson applauded development of VIU at the city's north end.

"It's is a nice signature piece entering from the north, but there's no clear gateway — there's no welcoming to the community.

"A lot of this is from jurisdictional overlapping between North Cowichan, the CVRD, the city, and Cowichan Tribes, all with vested interests.

"Our biggest market comes from the south — tapping the Victoria market and Mill Bay-Cobble Hill. We have to do something with a south-end entry."

With Cowichan River access too, he noted.

"There's no connection yet to our heritage-status river running through the city.

"Why not green the rail right-of-way and make a nice pathway to the river?" Coulson posed, pitching Summerfest river events.

Coulson cheered Duncan's gathering places in Charles Hoey Park, city square, Duncan Garage, Jake's brew pub and elsewhere, but suggested some permanent roofing downtown for year-round entertainment and events, such as the farmer's market.

"City square's still got a temporary tent over the stage. Let's get something permanent. We had an agricultural hall (razed in the '60s at the Mound) that was permanent."

Coulson was dismayed a gravel parking lot remains where the historic Tzouhalem Hotel stood at Trunk and Canada.

"Put out a design competition to architects for concepts of affordable housing for Trunk and Canada. Ask 'What's missing in our community?'" he said of a needs inventory, noting "There's nowhere for the youth to go."

"We need decent movie house, a high quality (drama) theatre, plus a bicycle loop through downtown."

An overhead walkway linking the Mercury Theatre to Hoey Park, plus making Duncan Street one-way north, and Canada one-way southbound going south "to relieve all the congestion" was also suggested.

"There's not enough pedestrian sidewalks, bike racks, benches, and downtown housing," he said, urging council's adoption of North Saanich's tree-cutting bylaw.

But heritage preservation and vintage facades got high marks.

"The Matrea building has been bought by locals, city hall's well-preserved, city square is maturing, and the old city hall houses the new wine bar beside an enlarged Belongings (shop)."

Coulson's pet peeve?

"How about a wheelchair ramp across the tracks between the Duncan Garage and Hoey Park?"

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