Archive for January 15th, 2014

Once upon a time Haliburton Street and Old Victoria Road were the two main thoroughfares that brought people into the city from the south. Today a four lane provincial highway, Nicol Street, cuts through the neighbourhood and links the No 1 Highway system with the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal and all points North.

It’s fair to say that Nicol Street was not designed with the pedestrian in mind and it can be an intimidating and uncomfortable experience for anyone trying to cross or walk along beside it. The traffic thunders along in both directions, often at speeds well over the posted limits, and the lack of a median strip between the opposing lanes of traffic adds to the intensity of the experience. It’s been necessary for the school board to employ a crossing guard at the Needham Street crossing to ensure the safe crossing of children heading up the hill to Bayview Elementary.

In spite of its obvious limitations, Nicol Street has some real strengths and considerable potential as the gateway to Nanaimo’s downtown core. The street sits on the crest of the hill that looks out over the estuary, affording fantastic views for both potential developers and the many character homes that remain there. A number of long standing family run businesses call Nicol Street home and contribute to the south end in many ways. At the North end of Nicol,Street, Neal Brown’s Arbutus Books is a real treasure of a store and well worth a browse. Gallazin’s Locksmiths have been operating across four generations of this proud south end family, and the harbour view from the back of Moni Murray’s Nicol Street Hostel is simply spectacular.

The South End Neighbourhood Plan has identified a variety of measures that will hopefully, over time, create a calmer, more pedestrian friendly experience on the street. The new 7 11 is a good example of the kind of mix use residential and commercial development that the plan describes. On- street parking combined with wider pedestrian walkways and general greening of the streetscape are part of the vision, which will hopefully see Nicol Street evolve beyond its current function.

Douglas Hardie is a member of the South End Community Association and can be reached at dhseca@gmail.com

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