Historic revitalisation of Main Street Markham with Stratacells
By Kristyn Levis
A prominent roadway in the City of Markham, Ontario, Canada, has been redesigned using various products from Citygreen®.
The project, which started in 2012 and set to be completed this year, involved revitalising the historic downtown Markham with an estimated overall cost of $8 million.
The roadway, commonly known as Main Street Markham, is a well-known north-south roadway through the city, connecting Highway 407 in the south to Major Mackenzie Drive to the north.
Regan Hutcheson, the City’s Manager of Heritage Planning, provided valuable input to ensure that the streetscape design was sensitive to the heritage conservation district character. Dan Foong from the City of Markham was the project manager while Sally Campbell acted as the city’s urban designer.
“There are three distinct sections of Main Street and the reconstruction phasing was broken down into corresponding sections. At the heart of the overall project area located in the middle of the road corridor is Markham Village,” Campbell said.
She added that there has been a long history in planning for the enhancement of Markham Village. In 1999, the Main Street Markham Committee developed Main Street Markham: A Vision for the Millennium to address “the growing need to protect and enhance the historic Markham Village as a result of rapid growth in the City of Markham”.
This was followed by the Main Street Markham Streetscape and Traffic Management Study in 2003. It recommended that developers look at the wishes of the community to transform the street from a vehicular dominated one to “one that better supports commercial activities in the core and respects and enhances the Markham Village heritage Conservation District”.
The Markham Transportation Planning Study in 2002 found that the current traffic volumes “warranted the widening of certain sections of Main Street Markham to four lanes whilst respecting the need to preserve the heritage character of the Markham Village section of the roadway”.
Citygreen’s range of products was a good fit in what the city was trying to achieve with the city space. Campbell said the “structural integrity of the StrataCell system® to sustain heavy loads supported by solid technical evidence coupled with comprehensive range of components to suit each situation” appealed to them, pushing them to choose Citygreen over its competitors.
“Citygreen’s representative did a great job of outlining the benefits of using StrataCell system over other soil cell systems. The city decided to go with Citygreen because it offered a complete system, such as cells, root barriers, tree grates, and irrigation system, versus just the cells. With other soil cell systems, we would still need to purchase all of the ancillary items,” Foong said.
The City’s team had relatively limited experience in the installation of soil cell systems within the municipal boulevard, but they have seen other systems used in the regional right of ways and in private developments with varying degrees of success.
They knew that in order for trees to sustain their health and growth potential to provide the most benefits, they needed as much room to grow as possible. They anticipated that the spaces available for trees in the boulevards and bump outs along Main Street Markham were crowded with above and below ground infrastructure and utilities.
“We knew an innovative solution to provide sufficient soil volume was required,” Campbell said. “Having explored alternative methods of achieving the required soil volume, including an in-house tree pit design as well as other soil cell products, we opted for Citygreen’s product and saw benefits on the comprehensive system offered.”
“We appreciated excellent customer service and numerous presentations by the Citygreen representative to different departments within the City of Markham to explain the product.”
Foong said adequate soil volumes are extremely important to the health of urban trees and the StrataCells provided sufficient soil volumes. The local government have previously committed to planting more trees. To support this, the city produced a Streetscape Manual: Trees for Tomorrow in 2009, which contains technical requirements to support healthy tree growth.
All public and private trees planted in the city have to follow the standards in the manual. This includes achieving minimum 30 cubic metres of soil for a large stature tree, “which can be reduced if trees share the soil in a connected pit”.
“In the majority of cases along Main Street, the use of the StrataCells did help us attain the required soil volumes. In some instances, a smaller stature tree species was selected where other constraints meant that we could not achieve the optimum soil volumes even with the use of the cells,” Campbell said.
During the project, it was determined that open decorative tree grates around the base of the trees was not a good setup for the area. It creates a potential trip hazard, and coffee shops and restaurants wanted to have the ability to place tables and chairs in the boulevard. Businesses were concerned the chair legs would go through the grates.
“Citygreen provided information about their paver grate product that allows for the surface pavers to be laid on top of the grate as close to the base of the tree as possible while allowing for growth. This application has proved very successful and provides a clean look and maximises the amount of useable space around the trees,” Campbell said.
Although the City will continue to select the most appropriate and cost effective solution to their future projects, based on their experience now, they are open to using Citygreen systems again.
Aside from the StrataCells, the Main Street Markham project also used Citygreen’s paver grates, reroot root barriers and rootrain irrigation system.