Staff with the City of Kenora are working on the final designs of downtown’s new Pocket Park – which could include even more than the previously-announced self-cleaning washroom.

City staff and volunteers held an information session and an opening ceremony at the future site of the miniature park and ‘pedestrian-friendly’ space yesterday at 15 Chipman Street – the corner of Northern Sounds and Systems’ gravel parking lot.

New Mayor Andrew Poirier came out to the ceremonies and was a part of the previous term of Council that approved the project last year. He says the final designs for the park are being finalized and should be released to the public in the coming weeks, and they could include additional features for the space.

“I’m looking forward to having something on this site,” said Poirier. The washroom [is] one of the big aspects of the project, but there are many other pieces and components to it. We’re looking forward to having it done. It’s something that the current Council was passionate about. It’s a good thing.”

The Pocket Park will include a fully-accessible and graffiti-proof self-cleaning washroom with automated washing cycles and locks. It’s a pilot project to see if self-cleaning washrooms are easier to maintain compared to regular washrooms, which have to be cleaned and locked each day.

The space has been in development after a Downtown Revitalization study identified a lack of washrooms and a lack of pedestrian-friendly spaces in the community. The city says the space will also aim to bring even more visitors to downtown businesses.

Construction on the futuristic washroom and the new park was initially expected to begin in the spring or over the summer this year, but Poirier notes COVID-19-related material delays caused some setbacks, and crews may not get up to much work in the area before the snow starts to fly.

“What we’ll get done this year before the weather turns, I’m not sure,” he adds. “But we’re supposed to get an update in the next week or so as a new Council. We’ll have a better idea moving forward. We’re getting close. It’s one more project moving forward.”

Former Director of Development Services for the city, Adam Smith, originally brought the Pocket Park’s proposal forward in November 2021. It was approved a week later by Council members. Smith has since left the City. 

Overall, the park’s expected to have a cost of about $400,000. That includes a $100,000 contribution from the city’s Municipal Accommodation Taxes and a $150,000 contribution from the Kenora District Services Board.