An announcement today by the “Downtown Vitalization Action Team” was made in front of the Vitalization communication billboard on Division Street just south of King. The intent was to provide an update on progress being made on a project that first started in the summer of 2013. Although a number of detailed changes have been made, the Downtown is still visibly in need of vitalization. Henley Arcade is better, some storefronts look better but there are still empty stores and buildings. While this is a common problem in other small towns, the money spent to date on this project has made only incremental improvements.. Any differences this year seem to come from the CIP (which arguably did not come out of the Vitalization work), improved DBIA events and the Art in Windows project.
The Town quoted Carol McCann, Chair of the Downtown Coalition Advisory Committee:
“All Downtown Vitalization projects on the billboard have now been addressed. Furthermore, eight additional Vitalization projects have since been identified by the Downtown Coalition Advisory Committee, and are either completed or in progress.”
At the announcement, Carol also mentioned that the Victoria Square project will be a “good focus point” and that measurements – e.g. pedestrian counters – will help determine which actions are working. The design for the Victoria Square project and the Downtown Master plan were also completed during the timeframe but not shown on the billboard. The Victoria Square rework is on hold waiting for a Federal and/or Provincial grant.
Most of the updates were given by Economic Development Officer Wendy Gibson and all items on the billboard were deemed complete – except for ongoing communications.
Mayor Gil Brocanier remarked that the work has made a difference – “there are more people downtown”.
The list below provides the status of the 11 projects that the Downtown Coalition views as being part of the Vitalization Project. A status report was provided by the Town but the comments below in blue are mine and not always in agreement with the Town’s version.
- Street Light Enhancement – complete 2014.
Six new 100 Watt LED street lights installed. Wendy Gibson said that more would be installed in the future.
- Closed Circuit Security Cameras – completed 2013
Installation of three CCTV Cameras along King Street and monitored by the Cobourg Police Services.
- Vehicle Way Finding Signs completed 2014
Signs every 0.5 kilometers along William and Division Streets pointing traffic to downtown.
- Gateway and Parking Signs – NOT completed
Gateway arches were to be installed at the East and West entrances to Downtown in order to provide definition to entering the downtown core – but this was not approved by Council. New parking lot signs are currently under review.
- Henley Arcade – completed 2014
Improved lighting, signage, landscaping, walkway design and a mural on the east wall.
- Cobourg’s Community Improvement Venture Initiative (CIVI) – on hold and/or replaced by CIP
An ambitious and expensive plan to provide finance and support for improving downtown buildings. It’s now on hold pending evaluation of success of the much cheaper Downtown Community Improvement Plan (CIP). Originally targeted for completion in 2014.
- Cobourg Youth Entrepreneurship Pilot Project (YEP) – Completed
Six youth were provided with support for short term businesses Downtown. Three continued on. The pilot project has now been completed although program seems to have shifted focus to the waterfront,
- Building Asset Study – completed
Assist building owners in the assessment of their downtown heritage buildings. No observable benefit although the study may point to possible upgrades using CIP.
- Heritage Master Plan – completed 2014
Provides comprehensive guidance for the management of heritage resources, including Heritage Conservation Districts, individually designated heritage properties and non-designated
- Tourism Asset Feasibility Study – completed (phase 1)
Assessed the value and potential uses of town-owned lands and buildings that may be developed to create a four-season destination in downtown Cobourg and the positive impact of such a destination on overnight visitation and spending. Only one asset was identified as being a candidate for development – the Trailer Park. Wendy Gibson said that “It’s now incorporated in the Waterfront Master Plan” – which looks like it will recommend no change in this asset.
- Marketing & Communications Plan – Ongoing
The Marketing and Communications plan was designed to keep citizens and key stakeholders updated on the Downtown Vitalization initiative through a multi-faceted campaign. This is separate to marketing the Downtown which seems to be being done better in 2017 by new DBIA management. Initially there was a monthly newsletter but this stopped in 2015. Go here for an idea of where it was at in 2015.
Each project was marked as complete on the billboard with a large check mark. Subject to approval from the landlord, the billboard will remain in place for a month or so then the space could be used for further updates.
Although there are some noticeable improvements, they are happening slowly – this project really is still a work in progress. One problem is that there are as many opinions on what to do as there are people. Let’s hope that the Downtown Coalition can make some better progress in the next 12 months – having a means of measuring success should help.
Below are some photos of the event. Present were Mayor Gil Brocanier, Councillor Brian Darling, members of the Downtown Coalition with chair Carol McCann together with staff Wendy Gibson, Alison Torrie Lapaire, Ashley Purdy, Teresa Behan and Dean Hustwick. No members of the general public came to the event.
Vitalization Update Announcement
Click any photo to enlarge; then scroll through with arrows left and right or start slide show with arrow at top.