Awards are one thing for Jeff Claydon and Ruth Ann Nieuwesteeg, but the real beauty they say, lies in the transformation that’s going on around them.
“We now have people who are choosing to go down Main Street,” Nieuwesteeg said Monday. “They’re now choosing to go down Main Street.”
The reason, she said, is a transformation which has taken place thanks to streetscaping efforts completed by the City on not only Main Street, but the section of Ferry Street between Stanley Avenue and Main. The work was earned a nod from Niagara Region, earning Claydon and the City Community Design Award for Public Realm Improvement. Nieuwesteeg was also a winner. She and husband, Ed, claimed the award for facade improvement for renovation and expansion work at Patterson Funeral Home on Main Street.
The awards are handed out to recognize excellence in design in the region that demonstrates the application of smart growth principles.
Claydon was the landscape architect charged with bringing new life to what was a neighbourhood caught in a downward spiral.
Claydon said the revitalization was a team effort between the City and the Main/Ferry Business Improvement Area, of which Nieuwesteeg is chair.
“We really got the sense they didn’t want just a friendly makeover,” Claydon said.
So streets were torn up, sewers were replaced, a boulevard was installed at Ferry and Stanley, sidewalks were redone and new light standards — giving the area a vintage look — were erected. He said that business owners chipped in to the cost of the improvements.
“The BIA raised a significant amount of the dollars needed for the upgrades, including the light standards,” Claydon said.
And the result?
“It’s a more pedestrian family environment so people can enjoy the area,” Claydon said.
“There were naysayers,” Nieuwesteeg said. “When (the work) was completed, the comments were unbelievable.”
But the work isn’t done, Claydon said.
“We need to add crosswalks in the spring. They’ll match concrete work on the sidewalks,” Claydon said. “A lot of plantings still need to go in.”
Nieuwesteeg was more succinct.
“We’re trying to get back to the old-fashioned Main Street,” Nieuwesteeg said.
But that didn’t mean the road to revitalization didn’t have a few bumps along the way, she said. The revitalization began in the fall of 2010 and took till this past summer to complete.
“I’d get a lot of phone calls,” Nieuwesteeg said. “They (business people) were calling me and saying why wasn’t this done?”
“There was a lot of hand holding,” Claydon added.”
As for the work at Patterson, Nieuwesteeg said she and her husband purchased several properties surrounding the funeral home to facilitate a 12,000 square foot addition which houses a chapel and visitation rooms among other things. Additionally, a new foyer and front entrance were added to the original 200-year-old building.
It was a labour of live for the couple, taking several years to complete.
“We started it in 2007, Nieuwesteeg said. “It was a long process but that would be because we would have construction stop. We wouldn’t want to have disrupted any of our families. You don’t want the banging of hammers during a funeral.”
Other Niagara Falls winners included The ScotiaBank Convention Centre, which received an honourable mention in the Larger Scale Project category; Family and Children’s Services Niagara, Niagara Falls office (honourable mention for architecture) and Valley Way Non-Profit Retirement Residence (honourable mention for adaptive re-use).