Town of Ladysmith, British Columbia
2017 Great Places in Canada Winner – Great Street
First Avenue exhibits all of the qualities one would expect from a great street: visually-interesting building facades, generous sidewalks, attractive landscaping and artistic details, places to rest, and places to gather.
This street, with its diverse mixture of local businesses, housing and services, has been a focal point of daily life for community members for more than a century. Streetscape enhancements, heritage preservation, the adaptive reuse of historic buildings, and the many unique and publicly accessible festivals and events held throughout the year, are key ingredients to First Avenue’s success as a Great Street.
The jury acknowledges the community’s commitment to defining and celebrating First Avenue as the heart of Ladysmith’s downtown core.
Located in mid-Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Ladysmith’s historic First Avenue parallels the coast line of the Salish Sea. It stretches eight blocks anchored by a well-used community hall at one end and a thriving commercial area at the other. The mixed-use buildings fronting on this important street include utilitarian, Edwardian, false-front boomtown and vernacular architectural styles providing for a recognizable and interesting street character. Many buildings are brightly painted and provide large window displays that attract passers-by.
First Avenue offers wide, accessible sidewalks comprised of brick pavers and black wrought iron street furniture. There are a variety of gathering spaces with benches and shade trees perfect for people-watching. Elements of play abound, including a giant chessboard, industrial-era artifacts perfect for exploration by children, and nearby playgrounds. Transportation is made easy with bike racks, transit stops and free parking. Inclusivity is demonstrated on First Avenue with a rainbow crosswalk and themed street banners painted by high-school arts students and world-renowned local First Nation artist, John Marston to celebrate Canada 150.
First Avenue offers a variety of amenities, businesses and services within an easily accessible 5-10 minute walking radius. There are many popular eateries and pubs, including a bakery that is a destination on Vancouver Island for its indulgent cinnamon buns. It also includes a grocery store, public library, and a central post office where most residents receive their mail. Rear lanes support larger parking areas to be tucked behind the buildings with angle parking available on the street. These services, businesses and amenities contribute to making Ladysmith an authentic and livable community for citizens of all ages and abilities.
Ladysmith is well known for its thriving volunteerism and community events. First Avenue sets the stage for all-season celebrations, gatherings, and day-to-day community life. Events include the famous Festival of Lights, which sets First Avenue alight with over 200,000 sparkling lights during the darkest winter days and attracts thousands of visitors – this year celebrating its 30th anniversary. Community information is easy for visitors to obtain, including interpretive plaques on heritage buildings, way-finding signage, and a downtown visitor information centre. A recent installation of 49th Parallel pillars is a welcome addition to the downtown for visitor photos.
First Avenue is the community’s living room and meeting place – the linear backbone that supports the greater heritage downtown. Historic First Avenue has shaped the character of Ladysmith. The role of First Avenue, as the Town’s commercial centre and a welcoming place for everyone, is reflected in its streetscape, buildings, and the community’s love for Ladysmith’s living room.