London

Dundas Place opens today: Here are 5 cool things about London's first flex street

Dundas Place, the city's first flex street, will be officially completed today. The two-year, $16-million project has transformed Dundas Street — from Ridout Street to Wellington Street — from a commercial corridor to a new streetscape aimed at bringing people together.  Here are a few cool things to know about the street.

Jim Yanchula, the city's manager of downtown projects and business relations, gives us a tour of Dundas Place

Jim Yanchula, manager of downtown projects and business relations for the city, says the street is nothing like anything Londoners have experienced in the city before. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Dundas Place, the city's first flex street, will open Monday. 

The two-year, $16-million project has transformed Dundas Street — from Ridout Street to Wellington Street — from a commercial corridor to a new streetscape aimed at bringing people together.  

"When we merge pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in a pleasant environment, we make a lively city," said Jim Yanchula, the city's manager of downtown projects and business relations.

"You've never seen a street like this in London."

Here are five cool things to know about the flex street: 

1. 'Beautiful flat city floor' accessible to pedestrians

Yanchula describes Dundas Place as a "beautiful, flat city floor" created so that all road users can move with ease.

Dundas Place is all covered by brick pavers. The paving pattern seen toward the left of the photograph is wave-like and is meant to evoke the river motif that designers drew from the Thames River.

"It's flat, so people in wheelchairs, people with baby strollers or people with a delivery cart can move from one side to the other, without any need for special ramps or anything like that."

Yanchula adds that people with visual impairments will still be able to identify when they've strayed too far from the pedestrian zone through a change in the texture of the paving. 

2. Pebble seating

"These are especially appealing to our little people, because I know kids like to be able to put their feet on the ground too," Yanchula noted of the pebble-shaped seating in front of the London Public Library.

Olivia Lowry, 4, sits with her mom, Lindsay, on one of the new pebble seats located outside of the London Public Library on Dundas Place. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

The pebble seats were specifically put in front of the library because of the many children who visit the central branch, Yanchula said. 

The seats, along with others at the corner of Dundas and Richmond Streets, are some of the few fixed elements along Dundas Place. Most other elements are removable allowing the city to widen the space during big events. 

3. 'Mighty' trees

There are many different kinds of newly planted trees along Dundas Place. 

"We are the Forest City, and we've got a goal of increasing our trees. We wanted Dundas Place to be part of that effort," Yanchula said. 

Yanchula says the trees on Dundas Place are meant to grow in tough urban conditions. 'The tree can really root itself and grow big because it has a bigger space underground to grow.' (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

"The tree pits go far beyond under the ground and are held up by a grid network of heavy duty synthetic plastic cubes where dirt is," Yanchula explained. 

"There's a nice area of earth for the tree so it can actually grow in, instead of being in a tiny concrete coffin."

4. Lighting system for entertainment

Yanchula says the block between Talbot and Richmond Streets is made special by the connection the street has with Market Lane.

"We wanted to fully link Dundas Place with the energy that surrounds Covent Garden Market." 

The overhead light canopies will extend to the north side of Dundas Street, indicating to people that there's an event taking place at the Covent Garden Market. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Yanchula says upgrading Market Lane was not part of the initial plan, but once that stretch of Dundas was completed, the city realized Market Lane wasn't flexible and decided to give it the Dundas Place treatment. 

There are also four light pillars right at the beginning of the flex street on Ridout Street. Yanchula says they are meant to be a welcoming feature. 

"They mean you've come to a special part of the city after you cross the bridge." 

5. Removable objects

"A flex street is meant to be flexible in its use and in the elements that are on it," Yanchula said. 

He notes that many of the objects on the street including seats, planters and some lighting are able to be removed at any given time to allow for more options on activates along the street. 

Removable planters sit along Dundas Place. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

For example, if there's an event happening outside of Budweiser Gardens, the bollards, which draw the line between pedestrians and cars along the south side of the street, can be removed for street festivals so pedestrians have more space, he says. 

Londoners are already taking advantage of the new bike rings available throughout Dundas Place (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

While most people will notice the obvious changes on the street, Yanchula notes that the majority of the work was done underground as sewage and telecommunication systems were modernized. 

To mark the completion of the project, Mayor Ed Holder along with community members will lay the final brick on Dundas Place Monday at 2 p.m.

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