London’s plan to give the forks of the Thames River a make-over is one step closer to becoming a reality.
In a near-unanimous vote during Thursday’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee meeting, council approved a motion to dip into its reserve fund for the back to the river project pending the outcome of an environmental assessment, finalization of project costs, and confirmation of any external sources of financing.
The motion, brought forward by councillor Tanya Park, passed 14-1. Bill Armstrong was the lone councillor to vote against the proposal.
“Moving forward with the EA process will enable council to have a shovel-ready project so at any point in time we can seek dollars from other levels of government,” said Park.
Under the proposal, council will earmark $5 million in the Economic Development Reserve Fund as a result of a one-time $10 million dividend from London Hydro. The cost of the environmental assessment is $700,000.
“We’ve used those (as) strategically as possible to keep some of the big projects that we want to fund and the strategic projects we want to fund off the levy,” said Councillor Josh Morgan.
Back to the River is an initiative spearheaded by London Community Foundation in partnership with the City and Upper Thames River Conservation Authority.
Last year, city officials launched an international design contest asking firms to redesign a 5 km stretch of the river from the forks.
The winner – Civitas & Stantec from Denver, Colorado – was chosen from a field of five finalists. Civitas & Stantec say their design (pictured) intends to integrate and balance many forces and factors into a cohesive, connected and accessible river.
The centrepiece of the design is a pedestrian ribbon bridge that juts out over the river. That’s expected to cost an additional $2 million but officials with the London Community Foundation have indicated they have lined up a private donor to cover that portion of the costs.
Councillor Park says the project can go forward with or without the repair of the Springbank Dam.
The approval comes a day after city council endorsed the Dundas “Flex Street” proposal.
Heading into Thursday’s meeting, the property tax increase stood at 2.45 per cent or an extra $66 a year for homes valued at $221,000, but that figure is widely expected to rise as council sifts through a number of strategic investments.