Unilock & Dillon Consulting
The City of London, Ontario, had a vision to transform five blocks of its once-prosperous Dundas Street into a public space and cultural hub, named Dundas Place to encourage residential intensification in the municipality's core, showcase the built heritage of the area, and shape it for decades to come.
In 2015 the city completed a new idea for the downtown, termed Our Move Forward - London's Downtown Plan. Renovating the first five blocks of Dundas Street, from the Thames River to Wellington Street, was identified as the number one project, both in the plan and in the focus and goals set by the city council. Dillon Consulting Limited was retained to undertake the Dundas Place Flexible Street Class Environmental Assessment (EA) study as the next step towards implementing the vision. Following completion of the EA, Dillon also provided the overall design, planning, and engineering expertise to turn Dundas Street into an accommodating setting that is shared by pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.
A 'Flex Street' Approach
A flexible street requires a unique approach to design that balances the needs of the various types of road users.
Dundas Place is intended for vehicular use with two-way traffic and a streetscape that also facilitates community events, converting into an outdoor venue for entertainment, music and festivals. Design elements such as curb-less sidewalks, narrower traffic lanes and reduced fixed elements support the flexible transformation of the street into a closed-off pedestrian plaza that can serve different functions for the community depending on the time of day, week or year. The widened sidewalks are also conducive to businesses expanding into the street - whether having a sidewalk sale or setting up an outdoor patio which has been so essential in the last year.
Other flex design elements lend themselves to streetscape placemaking, including the removable bollards, so that priority of use can easily switch between pedestrian amenity and vehicular support. There are no parking meters or pay stations, instead, parking is free for one hour, eliminating permanent structures. Minimizing and strategically siting required fixed vertical elements such as streetlamp standards, creates fewer obstacles impeding special event use when the road is closed to vehicles, while improving accessibility for the mobility impaired, helping define the separation of vehicle and non-vehicle uses. Furniture and planters used in the design can be moved or switched out on an ongoing basis as the seasons change and event programs require. All of the elements thoughtfully create an engaging space with the ability to transform itself.