As you may have heard, Mingle on Argyle -- a pilot project to explore a pedestrian-centric Argyle Street -- launched on the Sackville to Blowers block of Argyle this past Sunday (check out our photo gallery of the event). The project, a partnership between Downtown Halifax Business Commission and Halifax Regional Municipality (hat tip to our friends in the planning and traffic departments!) and in collaboration with Planning Design Centre and Argyle Street businesses, includes regularly closing the block to vehicular traffic Thursdays 4pm-2am, and Fridays to Sundays 11am-2am throughout the summer, family-oriented events and programming, and several street design changes including the placement of several public benches, planters and trees, replacement of light standards for more human-scaled lighting, and a vibrant green/blue/white argyle pattern painted on the street and sidewalks. Almost everyone agrees -- it is stunning.
Since the start of Mingle on Argyle, thousands of people have come to check out the transformed street, by foot, bike, skateboard, stroller, rickshaw, and yes, car. And people are taking selfies. Lots of selfies.
With so many eyes on the road, so far we have received a lot of feedback -- the vast majority has been positive, and there have been a variety of opinions and impressions. That's exactly what we want from this public art project. When we discussed what to paint when we were developing the project, an argyle pattern seemed the obvious choice. We tapped Downtown Halifax design firm Breakhouse to make the street design a reality within some set parameters (traffic paint comes in a limited colour palette and the design had to allow for a certain configuration of exposed asphalt to comply with road standards). A design that is much more intricate than an argyle pattern would also cost more to apply.
Painting an argyle pattern on Argyle Street is playful, and we think the colours feel very Downtown Halifax. We reached out to artists Jake Seibert from The Talking Wall Designs (responsible for the window artwork on Neptune for the past several years, and the excellent new paint job on Johnny K's on Blowers around the corner from Argyle Street), his partner Christian Toth, and their team of painters and artists. They scheduled work for the week of July 20th. That week met us with lots of rain, but by working early in the mornings and late into the nights, the crew had it all laid by the end of the weekend. They did an exceptional job.
Some people have noticed a little bit of green residue in the gutters on the painted street. It's not paint washing off. It comes from our application method on the first coat of paint for the argyle pattern and the type of paint we used to comply with regulations. We used a sprayer to apply the traffic paint, which has sand mixed with it for greater traction (in fact, when HRM's engineer tested the traction, the painted street had more traction than the unpainted street!). The green residue is comprised of sand grains that had been dyed green by the paint, taken by the breeze, and accumulated in the damp gutters. The paint itself is not washing away or showing signs of fading yet, and the small amount of dyed sand that has gathered on the side of the road in some places will not have an impact on our wastewater system.
In the fall, when the temporary sidewalks on the street are removed, we will be going back to fill in the design. But we do fully expect the design will fade over time, more so in well-traveled areas, and especially when the snow plows come out in the winter (but that's still a long time away!).
When the largescale Nova Centre construction is complete in 2017, the entirety of Argyle Street is due for a comprehensive streetscaping redesign. Mingle on Argyle, a six-week project, is meant to explore the concept of the shared or pedestrian-centric street so that we have some experience to help guide us when the whole of Argyle Street is redesigned and permanently transformed.
Let us know what you think about this project, we're listening!