Town councillors have approved a new conceptual design for the entrance to the heritage district, allowing the project to move forward.
With appreciation to donor Gerry Kowalchuk for financing an updated gateway at Queen and Mississagua Streets, councillors ensured they will see the redesign by Seferian Design Group, intended to better reflect the town’s heritage, again in more detail before final approval.
A limestone wall in the original drawings has been replaced by a smaller drystone wall, with aspects of it “reinterpreting” elements of Fort Mississauga, senior architect Haig Seferian told councillors, and intended to characterize the rich cultural history and architecture of the fort.
A much-discussed obelisk, designed to characterize boundary stones and to represent the first lighthouse on the Great Lakes, is not included in the option councillors chose.
What is included is “drastically enlarged” horticultural beds of four-season plantings, on both sides of the street, designed by the same landscape architects who created the Monet-inspired gardens for the Pillar and Post.
Seferian stressed to councillors that they were looking at conceptual drawings, with a lot of detail to be worked out, and refuted comments that the gateway design is in any way “hiding what’s behind it.” The drystone wall in the current design “is actually smaller than what’s there now,” he said.
In addition, two corners on Mississagua Street on the south side of Queen will feature “plaza spaces,” with seasonal planters, paving enhancements, seating and lighting, which were not
included in the original project.
Operations manager Kevin Turcotte told councillors he was bringing the two new design options one with and one without the obelisk, to council hoping for an answer in time to move forward with tendering in January, which will give the town the best opportunity for pricing on the project. Any later and the cost could escalate, he said. The third option he offered was to put a stop to the project.
NOTL Conservancy president Gracia Janes asked council not to proceed, saying what is currently at the intersection is fine, although she supported having two large trees relocated to open the view. If there is going to be a new entranceway, she suggested doing away with the wall, and creating “a marvellous garden,” but her choice would be to leave it the way it is.
“People’s hearts are with what is there now,” she said, adding there is not enough public support for such a major project to proceed.
Presenting the new design to council, senior Seferian landscape architect Brad Smith said the bed that is being replaced goes back to the 1980s and is “in need of a bit of a refresh to stay current,” and should “respect NOTL’s cultural heritage and create a striking first impression.”
“It’s our intention to do nothing less than a horticultural marvel at the intersection,” he told councillors.
There was some discussion about the signage currently on Queen Street that promotes local events, which is not included in the new design, but Turcotte told councillors it could be updated and relocated in a higher-traffic pedestrian area where it would be seen by more people. He also assured council the operating budget to maintain the gateway once completed, with a sprinkler system installed, will be no more than the current budget.
Council approved the design in principle, asking that it come back to council at the development stage, before it’s finalized for the tendering process.
In response to a question about the bump-out at the intersection, councillors were told a three-way stop will remain, but the bump-out will be subject to discussion at a later date.
Kowalchuk, who first made his proposal to the town in 2019, and had written a letter to council hoping for a decision after eight conceptual designs and the two redesigns, thanked councillors for their decision to move ahead with the project.