Viewpoint: The Esplanade also needs streetscape love from the city, BIA

20160101_122850Susan Bates—

If you walked along King Street East during the holidays, you would have seen winter baskets on the old lantern posts, holiday lights in St. James Park and lights on the Old Town Hall. It was a beautiful sight. If you walked along Front Street East, you have see hanging snowflakes, wreaths, winter baskets and holiday lights. The bright decorations brought out the holiday spirit on these busy city sidewalks. But if you walked along The Esplanade, you would have only seen lights hanging from a few condo balconies. And it was very dark.

When the Christmas Market was in full swing at the Distillery District, thousands of people would have walked along The Esplanade on their way to the popular event and back. As a resident of the area, I make my way around the neighbourhood several times a day, and I wonder: “Why is The Esplanade excluded from the holiday streetscape one sees north of us?”

And for those who walked along The Esplanade after leaving the Christmas Market, what was their experience when they entered the dark tunnel? It was not until they would have reached Church Street, where several bars are located, that they would have seen holiday lights on trees.

Parliament Square Park has a much used path that links The Esplanade to the Distillery District. Currently, there are orange and black plastic fences and steel barriers around the park’s centre. These fences are torn down, rolled up and in general disarray. When I made inquiries to 311, which were forwarded to Parks and Recreation, I was told: “The fences are put in to keep players off the field outside of the permit season.” I was told the disarray was an ongoing issue and the city would do its best to stay on top of it. I wonder: “How necessary is it to install these fences if Parks and Recreation doesn’t have the resources to maintain them? And how many people really do play soccer or baseball in the winter?” If you walk along the larger David Crombie Park, located at Lower Sherbourne and The Esplanade, the grounds are deteriorating and this park continues to be controversial, to the point that a review and park improvements are stalled.  Needless to say, this park has no holiday lights.

It’s obvious that Front Street East and King Street East are lined with high end retail stores, condos and restaurants. The Esplanade, east of Church Street, well, we don’t have the same mix of buildings and storefronts. I was told there’s wasn’t enough money for The Esplanade to have holiday decorations. David Crombie’s vision of this area was for it to be a mixed-use neighbourhood. That means social housing, co-ops, rent to market apartments and privately owned homes and condos. The idea was to bring a diversity of people to this area – a uniqueness and model for other communities. A street where it is easy to say “hello” to your neighbour.

I believe The Esplanade deserves holiday spirit too and I’m sure others agree. Next season, let’s get together and bring some holiday spirit to The Esplanade. I’ll write a reminder in our local paper, The Bulletin, in the fall and start a committee. Hope you’ll join me.