Vitalization of Cobourg’s Downtown has been a project since before the last election. In 2014 a Billboard was erected at the corner of Division and King that outlined plans into the future. Although there has been a lot of activity, the issue is still the subject of advisory committees like the Downtown Coalition Advisory Committee as well as the Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) committee (composed of downtown merchants). At one point, the town even issued a newsletter providing progress reports (see Link below). More recently, the Community Improvement Program (CIP) has been providing money to applicants to spruce up their buildings. It’s not clear exactly what Council can do to help since it’s not in the business of operating stores or other businesses that would be on King Street or nearby.
One of the problems is that stores stay vacant for quite a while despite efforts to find tenants by both Real Estate Agents and the Town’s Economic Development Department. In the meantime, the vacant stores can be an eyesore. One initiative has been to make the windows available for displays of arts and while that has been successful, a recent initiative has been to add “wraps” to the windows of vacant stores. At right is a photo of the unveiling of one in conjunction with the “Start Here” Downtown marketing campaign.
Note that in the responses below, three have been abbreviated [as noted] – no text has been edited, just a few sentences have been omitted.
|John Henderson (acclaimed)
I believe that the Downtown core vitalization is critical to our overall success. Council needs to continue the Community Improvement Plan (with its stackable grants and loans). In 2018, six out of seven applications were approved where Council approved $150 000 and in return the return on investment was just under one million dollars. Northumberland County has determined that rebates for the second-third stories will no longer exist and this should help to spur on new development for residential-commercial-business development. Reviewing our current Heritage Incentives will certainly assist us in identifying and aligning with new Fire Code and Ontario Building Code regulations. Bringing Wi-Fi and optic fibre connectivity would also enhance our service delivery. Looking at our Town By-Laws to encourage more citizens moving along the King Street promenade and promote the “feel of Europe-pedestrian-friendly atmosphere needs to be explored, especially during the summer months. [Abbreviated]
|Vitalization should continue to aid in the improvement of our downtown. It will bring people to live, work and shop in the downtown core and will encourage the development of the whole community.
Measure the return on investment of the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and Start Here Campaign, determine the benefits of the Downtown Coalition, bring the building owners and store owners together for a strategic planning session led by a downtown expert.
A great deal of time, effort and investment has been put into revitalizing Cobourg’s downtown. We are seeing the benefits of the community improvement plan and funds and the launch of the recent “Start Here” campaign is a strong marketing initiative to attract new businesses, services and entrepreneurs to the area. I believe that the next chapter of vitalization needs to focus on mixed-use buildings, sustaining the heritage of the spaces and facades and investing in viable strategies and programs to occupy empty storefronts. We need to support our existing main street merchants by reviewing by-laws that prevent street front patios and the establishment of venues and spaces that attract patrons and visitors to create a vibrant social scene. Vitalization also needs to address recreational and cultural opportunities and attractions as well as a pathway that connects our downtown precinct with the beach district. For me, any and all next steps in vitalization need to demonstrate how we are attracting new business investment and new downtown amenities.
I think we are currently on the right track with regards to downtown vitalization, and the Community Improvement Plan. We have seen buildings and stores that previously looked rundown, become refreshed, and while its not fully there yet, the ones that have taken part in the CIP have done a great job at making the downtown look more presentable.
I support continuing forward with the CIP, and further encourage building owners to utilize the CIP process to turn vacant apartments above the stores into suitable, and desirable, living spaces, to increase the amount of people who live in the downtown core.
The Start Here program kicked off this year with window wraps on two vacant stores, showcasing what the store potential could be. It also helps to make the storefront look a little more appealing to people passing by, rather than a dirty window and empty store staring back. [Abbreviated]
Vitalization is very important and through partnerships and working with committees like the DBIA and the Coalition Board, I would like to see the expansion of the “START HERE” campaign. So far, we have received positive feed back about this campaign and new stores will be opening because of this initiative, so lets keep the momentum going!
We should learn from other towns that have successfully vitalized their downtown cores, such as Warkworth and Port Hope. We should also review the effectiveness of the Community Improvement Program and proactively uphold existing property standards.
|I am of the opinion that our Community Improvement Plan is showing good results and we should continue with the program. The metrics are in place to evaluate the success of the program. I would be especially supportive of development of the upper floors.
|Karl Vom Dorff
|The 2014 plan needs to be updated with new ideas. One idea would be to produce a comprehensive SEO (search engine optimization) marketing plan, worked on monthly, to attain top search engine results using blanket keywords to attract business and investment into Cobourg’s core. SEO should not be underestimated; it’s a very powerful marketing tool.
|I would like to see a collaborative meeting of Building owners, business owners and economic Development officials get together to establish best options for a plan. I am open to any beneficial ideas/concepts that benefit any current business or any businesses that may want to locate to Cobourg. I think it’s incumbent on all councillors to be open to any plans/ideas that benefit our business community, which in turn benefits employment opportunities (which in turn, of course, benefits the entire community
I believe we need ‘Made in Cobourg’ solutions because our downtown is unique to our community. Good work is already underway, led by the downtown coalition committee and DBIA, including learning from analysis of results from early initiatives and pilot projects.
|Downtown is obviously a complex issue, giving out gifts (tax payer’s money) to building owners to renovate their roof/windows is not the way in my opinion. My plan has been all along that we need more entertainment downtown, a pedestrian friendly section in the downtown area, with quality entertainment. Allowing more outdoor patios for cafes and restaurants would be a good start. Our neighbouring towns, Port Hope and New Castle have been allowing business owners to take over the parking spots in front of their business for patios, what a great idea. The downtown building owners will renovate their own buildings when people start coming downtown. We don’t need to pay them to do it, Council’s job is to create the positive environment downtown with zoning and regulations that allow for the building owners to do it themselves. [Abbreviated]
Note: Candidates listed in last name alphabetical order.
The next question to be answered is Should Holdco finances be made public?
- Municipal Election Page with comprehensive information about all the candidates in the upcoming election. Includes bios, campaign policies, web sites etc. Also includes how to vote and questions for candidates.
- Cobourg Vitalization – includes newsletters issued
- Start Here campaign – 27 June 2018