Academy Road, the main upmarket shopping and dining destination in River Heights is about to get a makeover.
A public open house, hosted by Jeff Kerr at the Paradise Art store on Academy on April 23, featured Aaron Hirota of McGowan Russell Landscape Architects who showcased their designs and plans for the streetscape revitalization strategy.
The idea is the initiative of the Academy Road BIZ, a collection of local merchants who have also spearheaded many other community upgrades over the years. A recently installed seating plaza at Academy’s western end has a stone cairn with engraved panels telling the history of the road; it was an old streetcar route from days gone by named after St. Mary’s Academy at the other end of the street.
Although the BIZ have contributed financially to the proposed upgrades, the majority of the funding is coming from city coffers, with $200,000 directly from City Hall and another $275,000 provided by local councillor John Orlikow, who is using money allocated to his ward after the misguided Forks Water Park idea.
This funding will cover the cost of Phase 1 which is intended to be installed over the next 12 months. The full plan has a 10 year vision for continuous upgrades to the area.
The proposed scope of work for Phase 1 includes the refurbishment of existing banner poles on the street as well as major illuminated entrance signs on both sides of the road at two locations along the street.
More trees are planned for sidewalk pits with cast iron vaulting, in addition to sidewalk renewal and small “pocket” parks with ornamental seating areas at the corners of Ash and Queenston Streets.
Some new murals are planned as well as the continuation of the summer planters and annual Christmas displays.
The BIZ are also behind the annual street festival which has taken place every June over the past few years. This started out as a collection of sidewalk sales by the merchants and grew to feature a mini-carnival with performances from local school bands, improv troupes and the UofM swing group.
This year’s festival is slated for Saturday, June 7, with the possibility of a partial road closure for this year’s event. It will feature two main stages located at opposite ends of the street with rickshaw transportation between them. Cafes will extend their outdoor patios for the day and visitors can take in the artisan market. There will also be a thrilling skateboard demonstration from the SK8 demo team.