Village concept suggests everything in walking distance


Picture a town where the streets are lined with trees, everything is within walking distance including health care and housing for seniors.
It’s the vision Antonio Gomez Palacio, the principal of planning and urban design with Dialog, pitched to about 80 people at a public open house organized by the Town of Petrolia.
The town and Bluewater Health are working together with the group on a Health Care Village Concept. The hospital is making plans to redevelop the interior of Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital. It’s already received $7.5 million from the province for planning and redevelopment with more expected.
But the town’s role in the plan hasn’t been as clear. It is also working with Dialog to create what was first explained as a senior-friendly community. Palacio admits there has been some confusion what  a Health Care Village will look like in Petrolia mostly because the concept is still developing.
But he told residents there are a couple of ideas the group is working with now. Palacio says the steering group wants “focused growth,” developing vacant properties close to existing neighbourhoods. Palacio says it is more difficult than taking a vacant field and developing it, but infilling will create more walkable cities. “It is about being more sustainable, being able to sustain an intimate quality of life.”
The concept also includes interconnected streets “small blocks are easy to navigate and walk” making it easier to walk around town and this will also allow more room for housing.
Palacio says the group believes it is also important to enhance the streetscape by improving sidewalks, adding benches and lots of trees.
And Palacio says around CEEH, a health hub is developing. “The hospital is the real center – it is the belly button of it,” he says. “The family health centre and all the other elements are centred around it… it is a Health Hub – a one stop shop for your health service needs.”
The community hub would be around the main street, he added pointing to the farmers’ market as an area which could be further developed.
A map of the concept shows some new development around the hospital, likely seniors housing, and areas throughout the town where more development could take place.
Palacio says affordable housing plays a key role in the plan as well. “We need to provide folks with different options, not all single-family detached housing, perhaps multi-family units; the more options you have for the different stages of life, the more likely people are to stay.”
The consultants interviewed some residents after the public meeting. A community master plan is expected in September to present to the public.