Thursday, June 21, 2012

Downtown Revitalization ...

2010 was a challenging year economically in the Kootenays. Many were concerned at the vacant commercial spaces that were appearing with too much regularity and a general state of economic malaise that seemed to be gripping our local economy. Nearly two years after the global economic meltdown of 2008, the tiny metropolis of Trail was finally feeling the effects of this unprecedented event.  Nowhere was this more apparent than in the downtown core. Something had to change.
In response to community concern and a recognition that something had to be done, on August 20th 2010, the City of Trail hosted a gathering of local businesses and downtown stakeholders at the Best Western Columbia River Hotel to discuss the state of our downtown core. During this facilitated session those in attendance quickly realized that we were facing many of the same issues that had impacted the city over several decades and some new ones too: Aging infrastructure, an undiversified economy, stagnant population figures, a retiring workforce and a completely new dimension of competition in the retail sector with the advent of online shopping. It was clear to all present that if we were going to change the state of the downtown and revitalize our economy, a new approach would be required. This realization led to the development of the Downtown Opportunities and Action Committee (DOAC) in late 2010, with planning beginning in earnest during the first quarter of 2011.
The DOAC is a select committee of council that operates under the legislative authority of the City. It was created with twenty local members from various industries and professions along with four subcommittees that focused on the following areas; Development, Planning, Social Concerns and Marketing Initiatives. At our second meeting it was clear that to be effective, the group must not only have committed volunteers, but also a leadership team who was willing to drive the initiative even if interest levels flagged. This was not a short term initiative and it would require sustained effort and commitment to reach our goal. An agreement was reached with the group that Lisa Milne and I would serve as Co-Chairs for Phase One until our Revitalization Plan was in hand and we would review the structure at that time. I am happy to report that the much talked about and anticipated MMM Plan is now in hand.
After much deliberation, discussion and consultation with community, on May 8th MMM Consulting delivered their final presentation of the Trail Downtown Revitalization Action Plan to City Council and the DOAC. The plan was unanimously endorsed by the DOAC on May 15 and Council has now passed the Trail Downtown Plan as our guiding strategy as we move forward with the revitalization of Trail’s Downtown.   It is now available for all to view on the city’s website at www.cityoftrail.ca/downtownplan2012 . A condensed power point presentation is also available on the City’s website that provides a high level summary of the plan and its scope. This includes a document called a Comprehensive Action Matrix which provides an actionable step by step, prioritized strategy to build on our strengths and create new opportunities to make Trail a more desirable, fun and engaging place to live, work, stay, shop  and play. Council will be deliberating in the very near term on which projects will be undertaken first with the DOAC’s recommendations now in hand.        
With my new role as a recently elected City Councillor, I felt it prudent that the Chair role of the DOAC be occupied by downtown business person/people and not a political leader. The members of the DOAC agreed that while it is a committee of council, the leadership of the group should come from the private sector. We are very fortunate to have Lisa Milne of the Royal Theatre continuing on as Co-Chair with Richard Daoust from Century 21 also committing to the role for phase two, implementation of the plan.  I will remain on the DOAC as one of Council’s representatives and look forward to continuing to work with the group in the execution of the plan as we enter the summer of 2012. Along with the change in Leadership the committee will undergo a shift in committee structure to suit the new phase of implementation we are entering which is focused on the two primary areas of strategy and action. Watch the Trail Daily Times for upcoming announcements on Downtown Initiatives as they unfold.
I am very impressed with the plan that MMM Consulting has delivered and I hope you will be also. Please check it out at www.cityoftrail.ca/downtownplan2012 . If you don’t have access to the internet, a paper copy can be obtained by contacting City Hall at 250.364.1262. 
Your feedback is appreciated at downtown@trail.ca

Kevin Jolly
Councillor
City of Trail



This item originally published in the Trail Daily Times - Community Comment
June 6, 2012

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