Throughout the planning phases of the Railway Street municipal building and nearby pedestrian rail crossing, the town has spoke of an improved experience for pedestrians moving between the historic and south downtowns.
The new railway crossing (joining the gazebo and ‘Chicken Lady’ statue to the north with the new building to the south) is intended to be more than just another option for pedestrians to get over the tracks. It’s been designed as a thoroughfare, a sort of gateway between the two sides of downtown.
“It’s also a driver for further investment within our downtown,” noted development & community services general manager Drew Hyndman when the latest official update on the project was presented February 22. The building and crossing are set to begin construction in June and open next summer.
The area immediately north of the crossing, around the gazebo and statues, is set to undergo its own renovation as well making it more gathering-friendly. Between these separate (but closely related) projects, it should help the two downtowns feel a little more integrated.
“It speaks to place-making and a gathering location for our community, and it really is a destination for all of Cochrane, not just our visitors,” Hyndman added.
Said new chief administrative officer Mike Derricott, “As someone relatively new to the community, I already feel like this gives a sense of space and place and is a real connection point that could add a lot of value for a lot of different parts of our community.”
During their update, town staff said Cochranites should expect improved pedestrian connectivity from the new building on the south side of the tracks as well, part of a transformation of Railway Street both short and long-term.
“The design team wanted to ensure that the crossing materials used to construct the crossing pathway made sense from the perspective of connecting [First] Street to Railway Street,” said Greg Barsi, the site lead on the municipal building construction.
“We also wanted to ensure the design was interesting enough to compel visitors to explore what was on the other side of the tracks from either direction in order to achieve our goal of bridging historic downtown with The Quarry.”
The primary parking for the new building is located across Railway Street, near the library. If money comes in in the (relatively) distant future, a parking structure, or other public facilities, might be built on that site.
“I’m really impressed with the way we have it all lined up in a straight fashion to give a nice corridor from our historic downtown to the new Quarry area,” said councillor Patrick Wilson.
“It looks great to me and it’s an exciting project.”
“It’s obvious that a lot of work has gone into this,” said councillor Susan Flowers of the presentation.
“I really like the outdoor viewing of it and the feeling that you get as you’re walking us through it.”