The concept drawings depict a retro-style facade with retail space on the ground floor and residential apartments above.
With plans to get a shovel in the ground in a matter of weeks, builder Norbert Bolger, of Nor-Built Construction, refers to the design as “old America.”
“If you go through some of the old towns in the states or here in Canada they have that kind of look,” Bolger said.
Urban planners call the trend “new urbanism” with a strong nod to a time when storefronts lined public sidewalks and shopkeepers lived above where they worked.
“You could easily do that here,” Bolger said of Amherst Plaza at Sandwich and Fort streets, which will feature four ground-floor commercial units and three upper rental units.
An artist rendering of the Amherst Plaza.
New urbanism lends itself to the growing popularity of a pedestrian friendly core.
The town of Tecumseh unveiled plans earlier this year for a longterm redesign of a section of Tecumseh Road to give it more small-town charm using the same principle of main-floor retail hugging the road with residential space above.
Brian Hillman, Tecumseh’s director of planning, said the approach was determined after extensive public consultation.
“The consensus was to create an urban main-street feel, one that was pedestrian friendly,” Hillman said.
New urbanism, he said, is a new approach “to look back and see how we created pedestrian-vibrant places in the past.”
Salmoni Place Condominiums kicked off heritage style living in Amherstburg when it opened in 2007 in the historic downtown core.
Plans for the Queen Charlotte Residences just down the way on Dalhousie Street also call for a historically infused design featuring six commercial units on the ground floor and six two-storey town homes above.
Planning policies for Amherstburg’s core encourage these kinds of developments because “it creates walkable streets with housing and shopping within close proximity,” said Rebecca Belanger, the town’s manager of planning services. “There are design elements included in each of these projects which make them appealing for pedestrians.”
While Tecumseh used an urban planning firm out of Toronto, Bolger travelled to Missouri to look at a development called New Town at St. Charles.
Billed as the “first true New Urbanism development in the state” the project recreated a town reminiscent of the past where children rode bikes to the corner store and residents walked to area restaurants and businesses.
It’s a concept that suits Amherstburg, said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.
“Amherstburg is a walkable community,” he said. “Our highlight without a doubt is our downtown. To expand while maintaining residential is obviously a challenge. This type of development fits right with the theme of being able to walk to everything.”
Originally published by The Windsor Star
Published on: March 8, 2016