Taking a closer look at downtown Arnprior

The Arnprior Museum is the focal point of the downtown core

Arnprior has a beautiful downtown core but it is not yet meeting its full potential.Thankfully, Town Council has initiated a Street-Landscape Design Plan focusing on the downtown. The study started in July and is currently in the Community Consultation and Preliminary Design stage and the full report is set to go before Town Council by the end of November.

The study area includes “John Street North –  from William Street West to Madawaska Street, and Elgin Street West –  from Daniel Street to Madawaska Street. The Streetscape-Landscape Design Plan includes consideration of the sidewalk frontage of properties abutting John and Elgin Street within the designated project area, including but not limited to lighting, street greenery, site amenities, furnishings, parking, and the streets (vehicular travel lanes) themselves.”

The Town is currently offering two chances for community members to voice their input to help shape the vision, plan and design of the new downtown streetscape.

A public open house will take place on Monday, September 17 at the Arnprior Public Library (21 Madawaska Blvd) from 6 to 8 p.m. with a formal presentation at 7 p.m.

During the open house you will be able to speak with town staff and the consulting team on the study.

For the full press release on the study please visit:  http://www.arnprior.ca/pdf/sep17openhouse.pdf 

The town website also has an excellent PDF on the background and some initial information on the study, to review this additional information please click: http://www.arnprior.ca/pdf/sldp-pic.pdf 

The Town is also seeking feedback through an online survey, it takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes depending on how much detail you contribute to the answers.

I encourage you to take the survey here is the link: https://www.research.net/s/Arnprior_SLDP 

A walk around town

Looking down John Street North towards the museum

After completing the survey and requesting background information from the town and consulting staff (Good to know that a project budget is not yet established for the work and will come out as a result of this design exercise and open house),I decided to take a walk downtown to see what it really looked like.

It is vitally important for communities to define what they want to look like in the future. The first step in doing so is examining what is the current status quo, so I applaud council for taking this time to review our downtown core.

I encourage them to take a look at other comparable communities to see what they have done to maintain their small town charm while adapting to modernization.

For example, the Village of Stittsville created the Main Street Master Plan and Urban Design Guidelines  in the 1980s  to ‘promote consistent development in the community.’

A question that needs to be asked and I will briefly examine is should the downtown have a consistent feel to it?

Stittsville was able to achieve this by working with new businesses to maintain a community ‘feel’ you can observe examples with Browns’Your Independent Grocer, Tim Hortons and McDonald’s all have red brick with green trim, which is different from other buildings in their chains.

Mouldings and overall appearance 

The historic mouldings are overshadowed by the look of the buildings.

A number of buildings in the downtown core have intricate mouldings at the top of their buildings. I believe that this needs to be consistent throughout the core. If not it looks sloppy and not well maintained. As well there are a number of buildings where the brick is tore up and looks like it is an afterthought. If the community is to be promoted and cared for, residents and business owners need to take pride in their buildings.

This area of town should be called Pride in the Prior.

However, some areas, such as Elgin Street boast with pride. Their store fronts are always neat and the buildings are clean and welcoming.


Beautiful lush greenery at the Corner of John St. N and Madawaska, although I could go without the Yoga sign.

This park has brought life to the downtown.

There is little greenery in the core as it is now. The local BIA and landowner have done significant work at the corner of Madawaska and John Street putting in the garden/’pocket park’ area to compliment the large trees beside the Gallery Gift Shop. There needs to be more sitting areas like this new area where people can sit and relax and have a snack.

Could this be home to a downtown park?

Why not the empty lot beside the Royal Bank? I understand a building used to stand here and burned down a number of years ago and now sits as an eye sore in an extremely central part of town. This could be a community hub with trees, picnic benches, trees and more. The business community need somewhere to go to get outside and tourists also need somewhere to relax while they are hopefully busy shopping.

Two of three benches I saw on my walk downtown.

As well as greenery, there needs to be more benches in the shopping areas, I believe I only counted three on my walk. New benches also need to be more functional and comfortable. There should be garbage and recycling close to the benches so people have the most environmentally friendly way to deposit waste.

There must be space for people to comfortable walk on the sidewalks.

But with benches and other features along the sidewalks there must still be room to walk easily by a storefront without being impede by a ‘sidewalk sale’ or a bench. Is it possible with the new study to increase the size of the sidewalks to help make them more accessible?


This mural is well done but does it showcase what Arnprior is all about?

There used to be a mural on this wall if my memory serves me right, if not there needs to be one here.

If a tourist were to walk downtown, they would leave wondering what the history of Arnprior is. The mural close to Shoppers is deceiving as Arnprior was not settled primarily by farmers but out in the lumber yards and on the river! There needs to be more information, both written and artistically to showcase the unique history that Arnprior has.

As I walked down the streets, I marveled at the historic buildings around me and wondered what they would say  if they could talk!

The stone building that is home to the Bank of Nova Scotia has strong arches and stone work and was first home to the Bank of Ottawa in 1874.

On a recent visit to Mattawa  they had large wooden structures along the downtown core and each represented a different historic figure. Could Arnprior have structures like this? What about artwork near the historic buildings to let people know what Arnprior was like 150 years ago?

Arnprior has to take pride in its community identity, could we have a history board near a park to tell people what the downtown offers?

148-152 John Street is a beautifully well kept area in downtown, it is now home to Arnprior Bookstore, the Gallery Gift Shop but has been a telegraph office, men’s clothing store, dentist’s office and a shoemaker’s business.

According to the Heritage Trail 140 John Street was built in the mid-1850s, it has been Bakery, Gardner Men’s Wear an insurance office, hardware store and grocery store and a pharmacy, now it is a dollar store.

I did not know Arnprior has a Heritage Trail until I did research for this post, could this be advertised on an outside, all season board to communicate these landmarks to our community and tourists?

So, it is time to get involved in our community! If your are passionate about the downtown core, please come down to the open house on Monday night but  Strategic Planning is more your thing there will be a planning work shop on  Tuesday, September 18 at the Nick Smith Centre, stop in and help refine the corporate vision of the community.

Regardless of how you choose to get involved —-do something, this is your community and everyone needs to step up and have a say in how it is run.

In conclusion, I am privileged to live in such a historic community however the challenge it faces now is to modernize the downtown core while staying true to the history that has defined it for the last 150 years.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Candace
    Sep 17, 2012 @ 10:04:04

    LOVE towns like this. So much history and character.


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