It used to be dark, windy, and a bit scary to walk through.
It’s still windy, but organizers of Downtown Rideau’s Underpass Project — now in its second year — hopes to make the pedestrian link between Wellington and Rideau Streets a place people will actually want to be.
Following the murder of homeless man Steven Beriault in the underpass in 2006, members of the Downtown Rideau Business Improvement Area (DRBIA) started talking about what could be done to make the area safer.
Studies have shown that people felt safer in the area after the project was launched last year, said DRBIA executive director Peggy Ducharme.
“It has a huge impact on the perception of the area,” said Ducharme, who said the area — which gets 5,600 pedestrians each day — was “neglected for far too long.”
In addition to art, the Underpass Project, which runs through October, will also feature artists and artisans selling their work, music and dance performances and screenings of locally produced films.
“We’ve taken what was a very dead space that people didn’t look forward to walking through to a space people actually enjoy passing through,” said Ducharme.
Among the works currently featured are the photos of Ottawa artist Kelly Ann Beaton.
“I can’t think of a better venue,” said Beaton, who delights in the idea that her photos — of mittens she’s found around the city — will become a part of someone’s day.
“I hope people will want to take a moment instead of just rushing through.”
“It transforms the landscape,” said artist Jean Rene, whose photographic installations are also featured.
Ottawa Police Inspector Alain Bernard said he is in full support of the project.
“In the past, there was a concern for people’s safety,” he said of the underpass. “This capitalizes on the space for everyone to enjoy.”