Thursday, 17 January 2013

Prince Albert Daily Herald - Penticton provides blueprint for downtown revitalization provides blueprint for downtown revitalization

Prince Albert needs to compete with other communities

What we need to do is compete. This is possibly our best opportunity to create quick investment, drive economic renewal and drive tourism and enterprise to our neglected downtown core. Here is a case where we do not have to buy land, plan or rezone or budget new development money. We just have to encourage investment.The downtown is sitting there ready to go now and for the past 40 years. 

If we know what we need to do and what it will take we can see if we have an appetite to continue. I personally do not think we have an option.

As earlier stated it is up to political will.

Saskatoon has three bid districts, downtown, Broadway and Riversdale. They are also working on Sutherland. Each have full time staff and funding from many resources including commitment from Parking revenues, grants and a levee. Yorkton funds it’s renewal with 4% levee and $100K and like us gets grants. Regina has special grants and provincial funding.

So you can see we need help to understand where we stand. The report requested will help council and the downtown association make informed decisions for the future.

Here are what some communities realize from downtown renewal;
  • enhanced market place and better local shopping
  • preservation of community for future generations
  • sense of hometown and community
  • more employment
  • stronger tax base
  • reduced cost of services such as police, and fire
  • more visitors and increased tourism
  • more jobs
  • healthy local economy
  • better relations with private and government sectors.

Currently 3000 people working downtown, 1.5 million in taxes and $473 thousand in parking revenues after the new meters are paid for in 2017.

The report will provide for information to decide if council has the will to add downtown renewal to our strategic plan. Other communities like Penticton have seen the opportunity and I ask you what is Prince Albert waiting for? 

I ask you and our council to support downtown revitalization and renewal.

Prince Albert Daily Herald - Downtown Revitalization

Prince Albert Downtown revitalization report in Prince Albert Daily Herald January 16th, 2013:

Time for Downtown Revitalization

The catch phrase over the last week is “POLITICAL WILL” So I want to talk about a community that has that will.

January 2013

Penticton, BC population 33,000 started it’s downtown revitalization in 2011 and they are committed to making it work. They have commitment from council, property owners, businesses and administration. Here is what they have to say about it on their website.

"Vibrant Penticton" is more than just a revitalization project: it marks our community's time to shine.
Penticton is an innovative, adventurous City that focuses on sustainability, community and economic opportunity. Penticton also has a vibrant spirit, which needs to show through in its physical downtown areas.
Following a visioning process and creation of the City's Vision Statement in 2011, Council committed to prepare a comprehensive plan for the downtown in 2012, the first step to achieving Council's strategic priority of downtown revitalization over the next three years. The Downtown Revitalization Select Committee was struck, and in the 2012 Budget, Council approved $267,000 to prepare the plan.
Now we look to the future. Downtown areas need rejuvenation to ensure the cycle of growth, investment and prosperity in the community continues. It is time for Downtown Penticton to shine.
We are embarking upon this change together. The City of Penticton is listening to its residents, businesses and stakeholders during public engagement sessions so that, at the end of 2012, we have a downtown revitalization plan that has widespread support in the community. This will ensure the next chapter in the downtown's history will serve the community for generations to come.
You see Penticton gets it. I believe Prince Albert has not.
In my first 90 days as councillor I have been challenged by the realization that the Council and City of Prince Albert administration and some property owners may not have downtown revitalization as part of it’s strategic plan and that I have observed community negativity, lack of interest and overall little appetite to move it forward.

We all know that our downtown was the historic heart of the city. We call it our core. But property owners and civic leaders of the past have not seemed interested in the challenges of it’s revitalization. We are wasting time, running quickly out of grant moneys and missing the opportunity for quick economic development. 

Here are the facts:

We have 3000 people working in the downtown core - our communities largest employer

We have 306 separate businesses or offices in the core

  • 100 merchants plus 50 in the Gateway Mall for a total of 150
  • 61 Professional offices
  • 95 Non profits, schools, clubs, churches and media
  • We bring in 1.5 million in taxes with little return to the district.
  • 4% of all downtown business taxes are imposed as an improvement district levee
Many downtown businesses want us to use some parking surpluses to support renewal, since it is money realized from proceeds of customers using downtown services: 

2012 Parking Metre Revenues

Parking Meter Revenues:  $386,900
Parking Ticket Revenues:   $356,640
Gross revenue

Parking Operations Expenses:   $270,650
Loan Payment Principle:   $145,000
Gross Expense
Net Revenue to General Operations: 
Net with loan prepaid

The budgeted net revenue to operations for 2012 
Gross from budget with loan

Estimated property taxes
 Business levee at 4%

Parking revenues for 2012 grossed $744K We have a gross profit after paying for the new parking meters of $328K. Once the meters are paid we would have $473K returned to general revenue. Our 2012 budget called for net of $251K and we realized $77K more. I say we should start by looking at providing that amount to the revitalization planning.

Corner Stone has 30 stores and they pay taxes on the square footage of the stores not the parking lot.  In comparison 306 offices pay taxes or servicing agreements and the customers or clients must pay for parking. So think about it. The downtown business district pays 1.5 million in taxes and we impose parking meters and return the revenues to general revenue not to the revitalization. Then we ask the businesses for a levee of 4% and that is all we give back to them in investment.

When it snows malls pay contractors to remove the snow immediately and we set the downtown as a priority 3. In the last snow fall it was almost a week before it was attended to. We, the city, don’t even clean all of our own core business sidewalks on vacant or city controlled lots.

I have a feeling due to seeming lack of interest from the city, stakeholders that our downtown bid association is losing motivation and the Main Street program money is quickly running out.

So mayor, council and citizens of Prince Albert is it your WILL that we make our downtown sustainable and take advantage of this real economic opportunity that has worked in so many other communities? Do we want to make it a priority or at least add it as part of our strategic growth plan for the future? Opportunity will not wait. Like Penticton I want to say:

Prince Albert is a city that focuses on sustainability, community and economic opportunity. 
Council is it your POLITICAL WILL?