After months of research and planning, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is preparing to move to the implementation stages of some of its biggest new projects.
But first, it wants to hear from you.
At an open house on Jan. 21, the RMOW rolled out its Master Wayfinding Strategy, Village Portals and Banners, Cultural Connector and Gateway Loop Enhancement projects.
The four projects are among the 60 or so action items produced through the RMOW's Economic Partnership Initiative, CAO Mike Furey told a crowd of about 100.
"We're at a really critical stage in the development of these projects," Furey said. "We wanted to trot them out in front of you and get your input as we go forward in the coming months."
The projects are designed to improve the Whistler guest experience, increase occupancy and help in growing the resort.
"These are multi-million dollar projects," Furey said. "Both council and staff are getting ready to prepare and load the 2015 budget and these will be part of the considerations in that."
The costs of the four projects will be shared with the public as a part of the budget process. A budget open house is scheduled for Feb. 25.
The Master Wayfinding Strategy could best be described as a rethinking of the Whistler guest experience.
"Wayfinding is about way more than signs," said Ted Battiston, manager of special projects for the CAO's office at the RMOW.
The Whistler experience starts long before a visitor enters RMOW boundaries, Battiston said.
The Wayfinding Strategy aims to bring consistency to the entire experience, starting with the online trip planning and leading right up to the arrival at a hotel's doors.
Achieving that consistency is no small feat, and through its research the RMOW has identified five key areas of focus — pre-visit technology (Google Maps, tourism websites), experience technology (mobile apps and QR codes that provide information), the Whistler environment (local landmarks, landscapes and architecture), support elements (maps, brochures, etc.) and signage.
"Signage is the last piece of the puzzle, but you want to make sure that the signage systems are consistent with the nomenclature, the brand elements," Battiston said. "The pieces of the wayfinding system should all speak to each other."
The RMOW has produced a list of recommendations as part of the strategy, assigning them each a priority from one to five. The recommendations will be phased in over the next four years.
PORTALS AND BANNERS
The Portals and Banners project seeks to give different areas of Whistler Village their own unique feel.
The project includes installing a system of large-scale monument signs at key points in the village.
"The system is supported by installation of lightpole-mounted banners throughout Whistler Village, with unique banners that identify each of 11 'neighbourhood' areas," said director of planning Mike Kirkegaard.
The "neighbourhoods" are Main Street, Market Place, Olympic Plaza, Town Plaza, Village Common, Village Square, Mountain Square, Skiers' Plaza, Conference Centre, Gateway Loop and Upper Village.
"The idea is to heighten the experience in each neighbourhood area, slow down pedestrian flow through the village and connect and increase customer dwell times for all parts of the village," Kirkegaard said.
The portal monuments will serve as visible landmarks that can be seen from a distance, providing a sense of place to the visitor.
A total of 26 locations have been chosen for the portals, with 12 being designated as priority locations.
The next step for the project — pending budget consideration and council approval — is to finalize the designs of the portals and banners.
"The project is proposed for installation commencing this year," Kirkegaard said.
The Cultural Connector takes the wayfinding idea and applies it to six of Whistler's cultural institutions — the library, museum, Millennium Place, Audain Art Museum, Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre and the PassivHaus.
"While it's physically possible to walk and connect those places now, it's felt that if the experiential activity was improved, it would heighten the resort experience and it would strengthen those six institutions and offer greater resort value," said Martin Pardoe, manager of resort parks planning.
The project will use consistent design elements along a route linking the six institutions.
"There's a ribbon that weaves its way and links, and it's easy to follow and provides identity and imagination," Pardoe said.
The Cultural Connector would also feature "focal points" designed to capture attention, provide moments of pause and highlight transitions along the route.
The project will be implemented through site-by-site physical improvements.
"What we seek to do in 2015 is to really spend a lot of focus on the area between the library and the museum, through to the Audain frontage (and) along the village stream, by removing vegetation and clearing out sightlines, improving access to the water, creating more reasons to pause," Pardoe said.
GATEWAY LOOP ENHANCEMENT
In enhancing the Gateway Loop, the RMOW hopes to improve the arrival experience for visitors and the usability for bus and taxi drivers.
At the open house, the RMOW presented three different options with varying levels of intervention.
"From a design perspective, this is not a simple set of solutions to come up with," Battiston said. "There are a lot of needs that at times can be conflicting, but the project team has worked really hard to hopefully show... that there are options for developing them."
At the open house, manager of infrastructure services Joe Paul had a chance to speak with people about the three proposed options.
"People really like the innovative nature of what we call the 'high-intervention' model," he said. "It is the higher cost, of course, but people really like the level of innovation and the way that it kind of completely rethinks the site."
The three proposed options are the result of months of research and stakeholder consultation, Paul said.
"I think there was nine or 12 (configurations) in total," he said. "These three represented what we thought was a good range to bring to the public."
The Pique reached out to a number of businesses to provide comment on the projects but none were able to provide comment before deadline.
Presentation materials for all of the projects can be found at www.whistler.ca/villageprojects.
An online survey can also be found on the website. The survey closes Wednesday, Feb. 4 at noon.
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