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China Steps and Lois Lane

This is the heart of the Hub project and would require the bulk of the design effort if the whole remodel of this area is to achieve some success.

This area is underused, and dilapidated; a dead end space which could become a lively connector for to the rest of downtown.


The planning effort here would seek to achieve three primary objectives: (1) Create an attractive functioning space for retail, (2) Add a cycle and pedestrian tunnel under the highway to improve connectivity to Port Place Mall, and (3) Improve the connection to the adjacent property and Shaw Lane.


As open space the plaza provides a destination without a purpose. Now that the city owns a significant portion of the properties that use the lane as access the city has the means to improve its properties while encouraging the other property owners build so that a more accommodating retail experience can be had. The city’s properties would develop retail that faces the lane and the owners of other properties would be encouraged to build to the laneway edge. The laneway would be raised as well, so that steps would be eliminated and access for all would be provided. Consideration for the design of the Jean Burns site would also provide direct access to the lane and the lane would be considered an extension of the retail activity that would be happening on the Jean Burn’s site.


Instead of acting as a destination the site would act as a connector from Victoria Crescent to the Port Place mall. This would involve creating a ramp next to the China Steps wide enough for cyclists to use both ways. As well, build a tunnel under the highway to connect to a redesigned park on the other side plus the Port Place Mall with connections through their parking lot to the cycle lane and Bus Exchange on Front Street.

A tunnel would be a critical element. The success of the retail in Lois Lane couldn’t happen without it. The very best and most expensive solution would be to have the highway bridge an area large enough to allow a 20 foot (6.1 m) wide lane and retail underneath it. Additional retail space could be added on the park side underneath the existing parking lot. A second best solution would have a single tunnel 20 foot wide by 10 foot high under the highway. 

Along with the Gateway Markets on Commercial Street the tunnels represent a restoration of a vital link between fragmented retail in our downtown. The economic benefits to the merchants, restaurant owners, landlords and tax payers would be second only to the Gateway Markets.


This would depend in large part on the development of the parking lot the city owns. I am recommending that parking lot be developed as affordable housing. Lois Lane would connect to private underground parking for some about as many cars park there now. Above the parking would be a layer of commercial/retail space and then 3 of 4 levels of affordable housing.

At the commercial/retail level and with the cooperation of neighboring property owners Shaw Lane could be established as a pedestrian lane. Existing business situated on Victoria Crescent might wish to establish another entrance off Shaw Lane.

It would be connected to Lois Lane by wide set of stairs and a wheelchair ramp. It would also be directly connected to the ground level of existing back doors of businesses above Lois Lane such as the Queens, Zalathai Restaurant and Mambo Pizza.

Mambo Pizza

Lois Lane

Shaw Lane

Queens Hotel

Queens Hotel

China Steps

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