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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Downtown River Precinct Tender Approved

Owen Sound | by Matt Hermiz  

Council gives official green light to $2.93-million dollar project

Image: 2018 report to council by Kim Allerton 

Owen Sound city council has awarded a tender to officially give the green light to Phase 1 of the Downtown River Precinct Project.

In a recorded vote of 7-1 at its meeting Monday night council approved awarding E.C. King Contracting a $2.93-million contract for the reconstruction of 1st Avenue East between 8th Street and 9th Street, including the re-alignment of 1st Avenue East from the west side of the Farmer's Market building to the east side and conversion of traffic to one-way southbound.

According to a city staff report, the project includes the reconstruction of the road and city hall parking lot, hardscaping the market square and river promenade, landscaping along top of riverbank, new sidewalk on east side of road, replacement of market building canopy, drainage/storm water improvements and a new watermain.

City manager Wayne Ritchie says the area will become an immediate showpiece of downtown Owen Sound once complete.

"It will be the meeting place for literally the next 20 years," Ritchie says. "People will want to come, hold events and just walk around and enjoy the downtown core."

The 8th Street Bridge work planned for this summer to remove asphalt, apply a new waterproof layer to protect the existing concrete deck and then re-pave is also included in the tender package.

The entire project will proceed with a deficit of more than $374,000 over the $2.27-million approved budget available for construction costs on the River Precinct and 8th Street Bridge jobs.

Coun. Scott Greig was lone councillor to vote against approval of the tender due to cost concerns.

"When our landscaping budget came so much over-budget, my concerns are that we maybe have some extras in there," Greig explains. "I'm just concerned that we have a project that is in line with the financial capacity of the City of Owen Sound.

Landscaping and structure costs was the largest overage in the approved tender at $1.2-million -- more than $686,000 over budget.

Director of Public Works and Engineering Dennis Kefalas says the street re-alignment will allow for the creation of large greenspaces near the river front, including the creation of a pathway or "riverwalk" made of interlocking bricks alongside the Sydenham River.

"It will add an attractive elegance to the whole project," Kefalas explains. "Instead of having your traditional asphalt or concrete, which is boring is not very inviting, these bricks will bring more of that courtyard effect."

He says a smaller gathering area will also be created at the corner of 9th Street and 1st Avenue East, close to the 9th Street Bridge.

"And again, we're going to be incorporating some nice features," says Kefalas. "It will almost be like you're dropping pebbles into water. There will be giant pebbles you can sit on ... we'll include shade sails in that location as well to provide shade to residents that take in that area during the hotter summer days."

A number of specialty trees with spring blossoms such ornamental pears and serviceberrys will also be planted as part of the landscaping, Kefalas adds.

According to a report by Director of Corporate Services Kate Allan, the core road work in the project is to be funded by Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) Grant allocations for 2019 and 2020.

However, she says the province is currently undertaking a re-design of OCIF and there could be an additional funding shortfall of more than $248,500 in the event the city no longer receives the 2020 allocation.

That will be covered by an unbudgeted increase of nearly $260,000 in Ontario Municipal Partnership Funding for 2019 if necessary, Allan's report explains.

The extra funds infused into Owen Sound's coffers through the one-time federal gas tax top-up outlined in the Liberal government's 2019 Budget  -- an estimated $650,000 -- will be applied to the project as well to cover the landscaping overages.

Council also approved a purchase order increase of $65,000 for engineering consulting services from GM BluePlan Engineering Ltd. relating to Phase 1 of the project.

A staff report explains the change will raise the total cost of detailed engineering for the Phase 1 of the project to $325,000, still within the allocated budget of $355,000.

Ritchie says the entire build-out of the Downtown River Precinct will eventually go from the 8th Street Bridge to the 10th Street Bridge. But, he says future phases won't commence until after the 10th Street Bridge replacement is complete.

"This is the first phase. We think it will be the most expensive phase. It is the showpiece phase," Ritchie says.

Allan says the total budget for future phases of the project remain at the concept stage. 

The approval of a tender to begin construction on the Downtown River Precinct Project comes some six years after it was first conceptualized.

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