Stoking a vision to renovate Virden

Stakeholder Workshop Visioning Virden

When the flooring is worn, windows leak, or the kids have left home, homeowners recognize it’s time for a fix, to move walls, paint etc. Visioning Virden online workshop stirred imaginations for town renovations, and that’s what Virden Boost is working toward.

In order to further the work of the Virden Boost committee, town council contracted HTFC PLANNING & DESIGN last January.

article continues below

This summer, planning architects from HTFC visited Virden to see the project first-hand.

Last week, on Oct. 28, Virden’s Economic Development Manager Liza Park opened the stakeholder workshop visioning session with HTFC. The planners took the Boost committee, elected officials, town staff, business people and interested citizens through a 90-minute session where design ideas were presented and discussed.

To accommodate COVID-19 precautions, about 20 people participated from several venues such as council chambers, and some from their homes, through an internet Zoom connection with the Winnipeg planners. Everyone had an opportunity to speak in a roundtable format.

HTFC Landscape Architects Rachelle Kirouac and Monica Giesbrecht led discussion on the perceived problems and needs of the community. GIS technician Alex Yuzwa was also present.

“Not everything has to happen tomorrow,” said Kirouac. The planning designers are seeking a focus, “something achievable that can be done over time.”

Their purpose: “Providing a vision for community improvement, to inspire change, and guide growth and also to provide a guide to establish consistencies within community improvement.”

At least a dozen people provided ideas.

Former mayor Jeff McConnell explained the unique value of historic buildings.

Kel Smith had a few comments including an innovative idea to close Seventh Ave. between Wellington and Nelson St. which could blend with McConnell’s idea of creating a park-like area downtown.

Michelle Piwniuk, Carla McLean, Cheryl Porter and others including Virden’s Development Officer Cory Nixon addressed traffic flow issues.

Other concerns:

  • There’s a need to work with MIT to ensure signage will be allowed.
  • Clearly marked pedestrian crosswalks are needed.
  • King Street has a poorly defined edge and important intersections that need attention.
  • Access is needed to the tourist booth and public washroom
  • Wayfinding signage is needed into Virden and within the town to prominent places like Tundra Oil & Gas Place.
  • Active transportation is a new buzz word meaning bicycle riding. Where could protected bike lanes be marked?
  • What about sidewalks connecting downtown to King St. and to highway businesses?

Weighing the cost

The session progressed from problems to artistic design. The consultants provided choices. They asked, “What’s the right fit?”

Among design elements for entrance gateways and downtown, a series of four styles were presented, from classic heritage, modern heritage, modern rustic and modern, which would be reflected in things like street signs, lighting, benches and planters. “Just because something is modern doesn’t mean it can’t reflect a heritage theme,” Kirouac pointed out.

Armed with information from this vision session the planners will prepare for a future session late in November. “We’ll take the feedback [about] the level of intervention, along with the design character and we’ll come back to you for another workshop. We’ll show you some specific designs. We can stop looking at examples from other cities and start looking more directly for you.”

The Town of Virden has also hired 13 Ways Inc. consulting firm to “conduct a community assessment and develop a strategic plan as well as a marketing and communications strategy.”  EDM Parks, expects planning and development from these sessions to work in synergy for the town and the region.

With a broader mandate for business development, that consultation with Griffiths lies well into the future.

For those interested in catching up with the Boost project, here's are important links:

From the National Trust and Main Street Boost in 2017, Virden Boost committee was formed.

A similar roundtable, but without the hired planners, took place in 2018

At a December council meeting Virden Council decided to hire a planning firm.

© Virden Empire-Advance