City of Fort St. John uses charrette process to confirm direction for 100 Street corridor design

The City of Fort St. John in British Columbia, Canada, like many communities, has struggled with downtown revitalization. In 2015, the City Council adopted the Fort St. John Downtown Action Plan, an ambitious plan to revitalize it’s downtown.

Group working together during the Fort St. John charrette.
Group working together during the Fort St. John charrette.

The City of Fort St. John in British Columbia, Canada, like many communities, has struggled with downtown revitalization. In 2015, the City Council adopted the Fort St. John Downtown Action Plan, an ambitious plan to revitalize it’s downtown.

The Downtown Action Plan states that by 2040 Fort St. John will be a compact mixed-use, pedestrian and transit-oriented urban place that is the social, economic and cultural heart of the community, and where there are opportunities for downtown living. 

There are “10 Big Moves to Energize Downtown” included in the plan to achieve that goal.  Two of the 10 Big Moves involve redesigning the major transportation corridors that run through the heart of downtown.

The first Big Move is to “Create Streets for People,” which aims to provide comfortable, safe and attractive streetscapes and public gathering spaces in the downtown by slowing the speed and reducing the volume of traffic.

The second Big Move is the 100 street Greenway Project (the project) will connect Centennial Park to the downtown by providing a multi-modal transportation corridor that meets the City’s intention regarding health, environment, economy and social sustainability.

Although the Downtown Action Plan contained preferred conceptual drawings and some detailed design work based on extensive community engagement, the Council and staff were aware of some lingering concerns. They felt that exploring the potential options and conducting further engagement with the community through a charrette process was critical to the future success of the project.

To build internal capacity, the City hosted charrette training through the National Charrette Institute for approximately a dozen staff and Council members. Staff came from across the organization, mainly in senior management roles, as well as individuals identified to be directly involved with the project. Staff from neighbouring local governments, as well as private consultants, were also invited to participate.

The intent of the training was for all parties to understand the scoping, budgeting and planning for the project utilizing a collaborative project management process.

For most staff this was their first introduction to a charrette, with the majority having no familiarization or context for the process. The City was able to utilize the exact project that they would be implementing in the coming months, so this exercise was a real-life example of how they would be applying the charrette in the community.

The five-day charrette was held in June 2019, led by MODUS in collaboration with Urban Systems. The team consisted of a dozen skilled professionals, including planners, landscape architects, engineers, transportation engineers, GIS specialists, engagement specialists, urban designers and land economists.

 In advance of the charrette, significant work was done with key stakeholders and interest groups in the community to understand the needs and desires of the community. The public was highly encouraged to attend at critical intervals during the charrette, and there were public lectures, open houses, drop-in sessions and feedback opportunities daily.

A 100 Street Action Team of diverse and involved citizens formed an essential body of input to the process. The culmination of the charrette was a well-received open house with opportunity to hear the various charrette team members explain the final design.

Through the training, increased internal capacity allowed staff to have an expanded level of understanding of the process. This translated into a better understanding within the community, because so many staff could knowledgeably speak to the process and help to explain the citizens what this process was and how it is of value to the project.

The final corridor plan for 100 Street will be presented to the City of Fort St. John Council in fall 2019 with an anticipated start of construction in 2020.


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