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The Guardian
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stratford Waterfront Concept Unacceptable, Unrealistic: Banks


STRATFORD—Dramatic pictures of a possible Stratford waterfront fail to impress developer Tim Banks, who refers to them as cartoons. Banks made the comment when Stratford Town Council recently unveiled pictures of a development concept for its parks and trails system, plus parts of the community it calls core areas.

The computer-generated graphics are the creation of Ekistics Planning and Design of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The company’s work with the graphics and planning represents the second phase of Stratford’s effort to plan for the orderly development of its increasingly valuable land.

“It paints a picture that is unrealistic and in the interim the community misses out in what I believe…is a lot of potential opportunity…given the right circumstances,” said Banks. He attended a public information meeting hosted by Stratford and Ekistics and came within a few steps of storming out of the meeting room.

Banks said he is the only developer looking to bring ‘big-box’ retail to Stratford and he wants to do that in and around his existing Stratford Home Hardware. The concept plan shows a pond or pool of some sort on his land and a new version of the Dale Drive intersections that is not what Banks and the town agreed to earlier this year.

“I have never seen such a fairy tale put forward,” said Banks. “They elected to turn (planning) over to a cartoonist of some kind who ended up drawing pictures of ponds in the middle of private enterprise’s parking lots. It’s not acceptable to me.

“It is very nice to have pretty pictures but there is a reality and the reality is, in fact that people are really looking for jobs and they are looking for investment.”
There is no chance of success for ground-floor commercial space with residential or mixed used above it, as suggested by the Stratford concept plan, said Banks. He pointed to the failure of the Charlottetown Harbourside complex as an example. “It was very pretty and it was very colourful but to this day they still have not been able to maintain a retailer in that property,” said Banks of Harbourside.

Rob LeBlanc, president of Ekistics, says the Stratford concept has a variety of goals, one being the creation of a new “downtown for Stratford.” Another is connecting existing parks and short trails with a new network of sidewalks, cycling paths and trail extensions. Much attention was paid to the waterfront as a core development area and the location of the new downtown commercial core.

LeBlanc sees the sewage lagoons gone because they are near capacity in a growing town. He sees a complete overhaul of the existing shopping mall area and a new road into the community near the waterfront. In the drawings are a marina and a public waterfront plaza with a clock tower. “It is a fairly ambitious plan,” said LeBlanc. “It is a long-term plan. It is not going to happen overnight.”

Banks said it’s not going to happen. “We have to live in some reality and some practicality,” said Banks. “I think it is a waste of taxpayers’ money in developing a scheme that does not have a reasonable chance of success.”

Council now has the choice of adopting a final draft and then a member of the Ekistics team will be available to draft Stratford bylaws and regulations compatible with the concept, said LeBlanc.

“That is where council has to stand firm and say that (it has) bought into this plan and the (it is) not going to accept anything that is inferior,” said LeBlanc.
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