2. What Council Candidates think about transforming Nicol Street.

Question 2 of 4 questions.  Please check back soon for Question 3.

There are comments posted at the end of this article.  If you want to read them as well as those of the candidates, just click on the title…the complete post will open up.

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Candidates for Council

It seems that when the new Island Highway was completed, Nicol Street’s shift from highway to city street was overlooked in the process. We still have cars racing down an underutilized road with few safe crosswalks and no traffic calming measures. Motels that were vibrant decades ago have resorted to housing low-income and transient tenants to keep cash coming in, magnifying the area’s social problems. Further up Nicol, most stores are either struggling or empty, partially due to the lack of parking access or community development.  The province is in charge of highways, the city in charge of streets. What is Nicol Street classified as? If elected, what actions would you recommend to the city to transform Nicol Street from an outdated highway to a vibrant urban corridor?

Nicol Street, although it is called a Street, is part of Highway 19A, and thus a provincial responsibility.  Because it is a main thoroughfare, the city can put pressure on the provincial ministry of highways to beautify the street, and can cooperate with the ministry in making it more presentable.  To continue with the points made in the first question, if people feel safe and business owners identify the volume of traffic as an opportunity for their business, then that should result in more new development, and add to beautification efforts.     ~Mark MacDonald

First off Nicol St. is not an underutilized road, it is far from that.  As I live on the corner of Nicol and Needham I am aware of just how busy it is and the need for some sort of traffic calming measures.  There is usually one accident per month at this intersection and the only fortunate thing is despite some pretty serious collisions no one, to my knowledge, has died.  Nicol St. is actually a part of the Trans Canada Highway system. 20 odd years ago Nicol St., even though a part of the highway of the time, was actually 2 lanes with an Island running through the middle of it, it had a wonderful canopy of trees and was very pleasant.  Prior to the new bypass going in the province took out the island, expropriated part of the properties on both sides (mine lost 7-8 feet) and put in what you see today.  Personally I would love to see it go back to the way it was, or some other form of trafic calming measures, and would work to put that forward.  It is unlikely anything would happen soon if ever though as part of working on the Neighbourhood Plan for the area we could look at this as an issue.  This can work congruently with looking at the redevelopment of commercial space along this corridor to retail below with housing above.  The province has primary responsibility but I do believe the city and residents should have some say.     ~Gordon Fuller

Nicol Street is the Trans Canada Highway which starts from the Departure Bay Ferry, follows Stewart Ave., Terminal Avenue, Nicol Street and out of the City.  So it is a Provincial Highway.  The City cleans the street and looks after the storm sewers but the Province looks after snow removal.  The City looks after the sidewalks and back from the street.  I am not an urban planner but if there was enough interest and it was presented to Council, perhaps someone could be hired on the recommendation from Council to study the problem, discuss it with the residents for further input and recommend some changes that would be presented to the Provincial Government.     ~Ted Greves

I would work with the provincial representative to see what changes could take place.  Work with the city for a safer corridor for travel and residents.  Take all that information and come up with a plan with community input. To find the best solution working together.     ~James Younger

Nicol Street is our entrance way and where first impressions are made.  I would like to propose a WARD SYSTEM so we can have a clearer voice on council and the south end can receive the tender loving care it deserves.  I would also support more efficient intersections on the parkway and transit exchange downtown.     ~Angela Negrin

Nichol Street is a numbered classification of Provincial Highway under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Highways (MOT), typically known as HWY # 1 and HWY 19A.  The City of Nanaimo has no jurisdiction over Nichol Street.  The provincial government – through the MOT – in the past has relinquished bits of the Island Highway to the City and this has typically been perceived as “downloading”.  Any changes to Nichol Street would have to be a joint venture between the City and the MOT.  That would probably mean the City may be able to make changes, but the funding for the work and the planning would be paid for by the City and be permitted by the MOT.

As a Gateway corridor to Downtown I would recommend that the city study the prospect of making Nichol Street through Terminal Avenue from Southgate to beyond Brooks Landing more pedestrian and bicycle friendly emphasizing vehicle calming to reduce speeds and make the core of our city more accessible to visitors and residents alike.     ~Bill Forbes

That is a very good question, one that has massive impact on the city and the community.  As a highway, it is funded by the provincial transportation ministry, who would love to have us take it over and assume the costs.  However, it is definitely as issue that needs attention.     ~Merv Unger

I contacted the EmCon people (Road Maintenance Service) and their actually is a designation that the Nicol Street road surface from curb to curb is part of the Island Highway.  Surface maintenance, ensuring the roads are clear of debris, snow, and drain blockages fall under their jurisdiction, beyond that the responsibility for sidewalks, beautification and such is a city responsibility.  While Nicol Street is not the main highway, it would seem pertinent to make the entrance from the Underpass at Chase River and in through Nicol street a priority…  It is the SOUTH entrance to our city and need to have more done with it.  Encouragement of combined enterprises, assessment of parking opportunities… so that small business could have a foothold along the street.. again adding to the idea of making the section similar to that found in othe cities (the “Gastown” idea/West 4th Avenue in Vancouver,etc.)     ~Jack Arnold

With your long overdue Neighbourhood Plan will come a whole array of positive possibilities.  When the Departure Bay Neighbourhood Association ( DBNA ), of which I am a founding member and which I served as Vice President and Treasurer, commenced our negotiations with the City in order to obtain our plan, we had ample opportunity for input and discussion which ranged from traffic-calming to the establishment of a commercial node, etc.  The best suggestions always came from the residents themselves!  In order to re-establish Nicol Street as a vibrant urban corridor we need to practice proper urban planning and that, among other things, involves getting serious about infill and densification of the sort that brings more people to your area to support those existing and new businesses in a way that is sustainable.  We all agree that some 8000 more residents are needed in, or close to, the downtown core in order to make the proposed revitalization work and the South End must play a very important, if not the most important role in achieving that.  Projects such as Cable Bay and Sandstone, at the periphery of the municipality, do not help in this regard.     ~Fred Pattje

There are areas along Nicol Street where underground pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths could be integrated with cul-de-sacs to make it safer for children and the elderly to cross the highway.  The use of roundabouts along Nicol Street to establish it as a true street and not a highway should be researched.  The Street itself might benefit from zoning that would favour establishment of a corridor where townhomes and apartments were developed above businesses with a height limit of 3-4 storeys. Another possibility is the use of two-way left turn lanes as was recently done on upper Departure Bay Rd.  The type of street enhancement that the City funded in the Old City Quarter should also be considered.     ~Janet Cowling

Nicol street is still classified as a highway for good reason.  Ferry traffic from departure bay needs to be connected to a highway.  With the increase in population in the south end businesses will see more customers. Developers are seeing the value in building in the south end and with the help of city council Nicol street can become vibrant again.     ~Mark Sadhra

The South End is the same old mix of small industrial and residential, defined on one side by railroad and on the other by Nicol Street which is a major truck route.  Twenty years ago we entered into a discussion over Nicol Street with the Provincial Highways Department to no avail.  The only answer to the problems of Nicol Street would be to upgrade the railroad and move it to Duke Point.  Until that time we are left with a major truck route through our community.     ~Tim Lander

Nicol Street is a joint jurisdiction with the province responsible from curb to curb, and the city beyond that.  From the intersection by the old firehall to Nicol and South Street – a distance of 1.7 km – there are only 2 crosswalks in an area of the city with a very high concentration of pedestrians and cyclists.  This is still primarily a residential area and nowhere else in Nanaimo does this situation occur.   More crosswalks and beautification of blocked-off side streets would be a starter; the dual jurisdiction does not pose an easy solution.     ~Pat Squire

The fact that Nicol Street is in Nanaimo means we should clean it up, and not wait for provincial help.  First off we have to make it attractive to business owners and buy locally.  It has to be a safe place to walk around without fear of drugs or bodily harm.  We need to help people who were once good tax paying citizens get off the streets, sometimes all they need is to know there is a house that they can take prescription their meds.  The Gordon Campbell Liberals devastated health care leading to good honest citizens being forced to make bad decisions.  Some repeat offenders need longer incarsuration times.  We should save money which could go towards building new low income housing.  More and more I meet with the “working poor” as I go door to door, they need real tax relief.     ~Rob Campbell

Nicol Street is still a major throughfare for people travelling up island even though they can take the parkway and bypass downtown.  Nicol Street is still a street (50km) and deserves some beautification to encourage those who pass through to stop, shop and eat.  Several gas stations have closed and those sites would make good parking lots for access to the shops.  Planting more trees and flowers, with benches to sit and chat would help to ‘funk’ up the place.  The ‘arts’ district could expand up Nicol as well.      ~Terry Lynn Saunders

Your question contains a very good description of the Nicol Street reality, and I completely agree with the goal of transforming it into a “vibrant urban corridor”.  Nicol Street is still classified as a provincial highway and falls under provincial jurisdiction.  The City considers it a major arterial road.  In the revised and recently adopted Official Community Plan (Plan Nanaimo), much of Nicol Street is designated for mixed residential and commercial development, subject to rezonings (and the approval of the provincial ministry).

If re-elected, I would move that Council proceed with a recommendation in the new Plan Nanaimo – that a neighbourhood plan be developed for the South End “in the short term”, or as soon as possible.  As with other neighbourhood plans we have completed, the process of developing that plan would be very inclusive and consultative with most of the input coming from South End residents.  When complete, the South End Neighbourhood Plan would become part of the City’s Official Community Plan and would guide development in the area and along Nicol Street in more sensitive and precise ways than the overall OCP does now.

I believe this process would be the best way to influence the transformation of Nicol Street.     ~Bill Holdom

Nicol Street is still a portion of the Number 1 Trans Canada Highway.  There is need for an urban planner to review and come up with a concept plan for those properties fronting Nicol St.  It could be that the land for a proper concept plan would be the west side of Haliburton to the east side of Victoria Road from Crace Street at the north to Woodhouse Street at the south.     ~Loyd Sherry

I agree that with the fact that the construction of the parkway changed Nicol Street. I question the term “underutilized” though because I think that a lot of traffic uses Nicol during peak times.  It is sad but true that this once vibrant area has become a prime candidate for renewal, both physical and social. What to do with this issue? Confirm the current road designation, which I think is urban collector.  Determine if the designation is valid through a traffic study, which needs to include all forms of traffic. Then work with all stakeholders to improve the physical standards such as curbing, calming, landscape, lighting and shared space policy and enforcement.     ~Jim Kipp

Years ago (10) I was part of a team (EDG) who undertook the task with volunteer labour to provide a bit of a face lift to residences and buildings along Nicol Street.  We contacted the absentee landlords to provide permission to upgrade the fences and boulevards, had paint and lumber donated, and worked with volunteers to make the street more welcoming and inviting for new business.

Today I would like to see the City of Nanaimo lobby for an urban renewal grant from the Province to undertake a redesign of Nicol Street much like a downtown revitalization project. The street should incorporate such modern techniques as traffic calming and landscaped centre medians. I would see my role as a researcher/listener connecting with community representatives as well as the appropriated provincial experts who could work to solving these problems.     ~Diana Johnstone

Technically to my knowledge Nicol Street is referred to as the Old Island Highway and fundamentally is a feeder road in and out of Nanaimo.  While the Parkway has alleviated considerable traffic volumes including commercial vehicles and heavy trucks, it will always be a major connector.

I would definitely support a comprehenisve plan for the Terminal Avenue through the Commercial Street intersection and South on Nicol Street.  Naturally an undertaking of this magnitude is a lengthy process which may involve expropriations, property consolidations, rezonings, streetscape upgrades to name a few.

Like all massive projects and undertakings the priorization of the project on the capital planning list and funds available are necessary to move any multi million dollar project through.     ~Bill Bestwick

Nicol continues to be a “highway”.  Having said that the City has effective control.  The road needs to be redone as TWO lanes of traffic, with parking restored on both sides wherever possible, and remaining areas used for proper turning lanes.  I expect this could be accomplished quickly from Milton to downtown, and the rest worked on later.  It is VERY possible to make this change with City Council support.     ~Blake McGuffie

Nicol Street is classified as a highway still because it is a major trucking route in Nanaimo.  The city needs to re-classify the highway as a street and lower the speed limit by at least 10 km/h.  Finally we should include Nicol St. in the City Beautification Projects like hanging art and flowerpots.

To rescue the motels and assist the struggling shops, we need to consider extending the Urban Containment Boundary on the Official City Plan to include the motels.  We also need zoning for multi-level residential buildings that include a building requirement for small commercial units on ground/street level, in front of at least one floor of public parking.  The first 3 floors of these (maximum 12 story) buildings could be dedicated to parking.  We could reduce our parking situation, while increasing our potential tax base, discourage transient tenants, and help Nicol become the best street it can be.     ~Troy Pearson

Nicol Street from curb to curb is the responsibility of the Province.  From the curbs back is the responsibility of the city.  Shall the twain ever meet?  Much of the traffic which previously used this route heading up-island has now been rerouted to the bypass thus reducing business opportunities along the street.  This curbs investment in the area, which is also in one of the older city neighbourhoods and could use upgrading (see response to question 1).  If Nicol Street is to be transformed it will be primarily through the efforts of the neighbourhood working with developers, small businessmen and the city to introduce or upgrade shops many of which may initially need their backs to Nicol St. as there is no parking along the highway and the frontage is forbidding.  Should such groups develop a successful plan, they could approach the province for traffic calming measures such as roundabouts, boulevards, etc. which might slow traffic, allow for on street parking and bring the storefronts back to the street (this is problematic as Nicol Street is a provincial highway.  The city, I presume for the obvious political reason, does not include Nicol St. in their 5 year traffic counts and it is difficult to immediately judge the longer range implications of such a move).  While provincial agreement to such measures on a provincial highway might be a long shot (and it would undoubtedly make the city responsible for road maintenance rather than the province), it might be worth a try after the appropriate planning and implementation implications are known.  This would be up to the Nicol Street Neighbours and the City.  Perhaps there needs to be a Nicol Street Partnership similar to the Downtown Nanaimo Partnership.     ~Ron Bolin

This is part of the long-range picture for our city, and Nicol Street will not be left out.  Though it is classed as a highway, the city has a role to play in making it a vibrant part of our downtown and south end.     ~Larry McNabb

I believe Nicol St. is classified as a highway.  If this is the case it would be a matter of Provincial jurisdiction.  However, I am sure the City could exercise some measure of influence if it chose to do so.  I have always thought that corridor had amazing potential.  I think an upgrade similar to that of near Terminal Park would be in order, a grassy median with trees and crosswalks.     ~Simon Schachner

Don’t forget to check out the response to this question from our Mayoral candidates here.


Filed under Answers From Candidates Here, Candidates for City Council, Development in South End

4 responses to “2. What Council Candidates think about transforming Nicol Street.

  1. While Nicol Street is provincially maintained I appreciate all the responses that suggested ways to work with that to make it a more vibrant part of the community.

    I love the descriptions of how the street used to look, like in Gord’s answer. That little bit of nostalgia makes me think that a return to more community oriented values isn’t so far out of reach. That Nicol Street doesn’t have to be an enormous void bisecting our neighbourhood.

    In light of the fact that the road’s designation as Trans-Canada Highway is the biggest factor limiting the redevelopment, a relatively simple redesignation and intersection adjustment could have hwy 1 travel from Departure Bay ferry terminal up Brechin westward on Northfeild and out to the parkway. This would be the least complicated and inexpensive way to allow Nicol street to return to local values and interests.

    In a perfect world I could see changing Nicol Street back to two lanes with an island down the center where it’s residential and angled street parking in front of commercial buildings.

    I wonder if it’s telling that some of the candidates spelled Nicol Street “Nichol”. Is there a reason I’m not aware of that it would be also spelled this way despite what the street signs read? Historical spelling perhaps?

  2. Mary Ann G.

    Some of these ideas are pretty interesting.

    I like Jack Arnold’s vision of a funky neighbourhood i.e. Gastown. 4th Avenue (or perhaps in today’s world, Main, Cambie or Commercial Streets in Vancouver. It’s only going to be a matter of time before the downtown changes and rents go up. I’d like to see Nicol St shops as a place where young shopkeepers could blossom. We’d need city help there.

    What Fred Pattje says about 8,000 more residents needed to make the downtown revitalization work is an eye opener, as well as his comment on Cable Bay.

    I wonder about Ron Bolin’s comment about shops that face away from the street. I’d rather see parking in front. I agree with Blake McGuffie’s comment that parking “could be accomplished quickly from Milton to downtown, and the rest worked on later.”

    There are many parts to this whole effort. I understand that the Downtown Nanaimo Partnership has done some initial work around the retail area. But I don’t think there has been any resident’s input.

  3. Mary Ann: The reason I talk about shops facing away from the street is that I don’t see change happening until there is solid neighbourhood development. And until that happens the highway is a neighbourhood killer. If we first focused on the areas which can be controlled and became strong, then the problem of dealing with the highway might be overcome. Perhaps the bypass should be designated as Highway 1, and Nicol Street be returned to the city where there would be the power to control traffic and reunite the divided neighbourhoods.

  4. If you think about it we could utilize Blake’s idea of converting it to two lanes with staggered parking on the street, convert the single story shops to have a 2nd story set back from the first and look at the feasibility of shopping in the back (Ron’s idea) long the laneways. Parking in the back could be a problem but working out the kinks is what community is all about. Once the gateway from Milton to the downtown is done then we could look to my ideas of bringing it back to two lanes with a tree lined middle divider south of Milton. When elected to council I will strongly push to have the Neighbourhood Plan started early in the new year.

    there may be a way to partner with a group that is bringing a University planning person from the mainland to do some community mapping for their group. I’m workuing on it.

    Mary Ann, the DNP really hasn’t done anything regarding the area yet but it is on the radar.

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