When we dance again . ...
Few subjects in Aylmer’s pre-COVID news have stimulated concern as much as the new pavilion at the Marina. This is the restaurant structure, holding, I understand, besides the restaurant, some offices and services.
No one questions replacing the old restaurant. Apparently it had loose floor boards on the dance floor, and other inconveniences. There have been complaints for years. But there has also been a lot of praise for the old structure, especially the big deck facing west over this broad expanse of the Ottawa River -- the best place in our city to watch a sunset.
It was also, apparently, one of the best places for outdoor meals – and for dancing. The latin music nights were very popular with their live bands and a full dance floor. Old folks got up and “shook their legs” and the young ones joined – it’s hard to resist Latin beats. And the food was alright, for pub food, for an outdoor dance party with a live band. Unbeatable.
Now there’s the new structure. If we read the letters to the editor, it’s hard to find anyone praising the new facility. Of course there are so many rumours, it is difficult to be certain what the result will be – will there be a deck for dancing, facing the water and sunset? Will there be live music each weekend? What ambiance, what menu, what other services will be offered? Everyone seems to be expecting the worst.
Why expect the worst? Because, the letter-writers insist, there were no genuine citizen consultations. Public meetings announced information about what’s coming, but no choices. That is not “consultation”, although it seems standard for most city planning.
It is not too late. Although the building is up, basically, changes and additions are still possible. So how about some real consultations?
Likewise, how about a directive to city planners and especially to architects who bid on city projects. A two-word directive would be fine: “get creative!” Projects as popular as this deserve more than off-the-shelf plans. Certainly the fees paid to architects for these public projects deserve more than plans from Home Depot.
The same goes for Aylmer’s new library. If we must have a new structure, sparkling and shiny, let’s get real citizen input and, finally, real architectural originality, something to make us proud of our city. These are all opportunities to keep our city modern and flourishing.
Once COVID is past, we will return to Aylmer’s marina for its sunsets and sunny days. It is a major tourist attraction, the anchor for festivals and parties. Such buildings should respect their environment (ie, not a building you would find in suburban Montreal), should incorporate the historical record and the local preferences. Just being “new” -- or semi-new steel-and-glass – is not enough. The Marina deserves quality and originality. And an outdoor dance floor! We will dance again.