The price tag to spruce up Nathan Phillips Square is going up by almost $5-million - thanks to parking garage and loading dock repairs, and a million-dollar indoor bike station.
The $4.8-million increase, which goes before the city's budget committee next week, brings the total price tag for all work being done on the square, including infrastructure repairs, to about $45-million.
It's still a small price to pay, advocates argue, to revitalize a city-centre public space whose Scandinavian design doesn't look as slick as it did in the 1960s.
But the rising price tag fuels arguments that the city should have done more to garner private sponsorship to cover the project's costs when it was in the financing stage months ago.
"If Chicago can find sponsors for Millennium Square, why can't we do that? … I'm just not sure enough effort's been put forward to secure outside financing to help make this feasible," said councillor Doug Holyday.
"A million for a bike facility? People must think money grows on trees."
The city's Office of Partnerships had originally planned to leverage about $24-million of the project's costs by fundraising through private donors, but shallower post-recession pockets and a degree of donor fatigue after a major funding drive for city museums and cultural landmarks brought in less than expected.
Councillor Peter Milczyn, an architect and one of the drivers of the revitalization project, noted that much of the added cost is simply necessary repairs "piggybacking" off the square's planned makeover.
"It's not any increase in the budget to do the work that's already been approved and that's part of the redesign of the square - these are add-ons to this contract, but for work I imagine would have been done anyway."
The bike station, estimated to cost about $1.2-million, will be in the parking lot underneath Nathan Phillips Square, accessible via a ramp leading off Queen Street. The 380-bike facility, which will rent out "parking plans" to enterprising two-wheeled commuters, promises customers shower and change facilities, personal lockers, free air for tires and tools for minor maintenance.
When a similar facility opened in Union Station last year, the city's cycling advocates hailed it as a step forward for a city trying to encourage cyclist commuters leery of braving downtown traffic, only to have their steeds stolen while locked outside.
"It's definitely been a success," said Yvonne Bambrick, executive director of the Toronto Cyclists Union. "[Nathan Phillips is]another great, central location - I'm sure it'll be highly used. … It's important to have a secure, central location to keep your bike, but if there's shower facilities, that's a huge deal for those who work in offices nearby but don't have shower facilities in their buildings."
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