Rather than sending an empty message to tourists or residents of Trail, a group of movers and shakers have kicked off their plans to rejuvenate the downtown with new vinyl mesh signs welcoming passers-by to the city.
“I think for a lot of people, myself included when I almost stopped traffic last night, it really is a first quick win of how fantastic Trail can look,” said Lisa Milne, vice-chair of the Downtown Opportunities and Action Committee.
“Yes, it is an eyesore that we’re covering up but it’s promoting where we’re going.”
The group made of city officials and business-minded individuals have applied a graphically designed vinyl cover to the former gas station lots on Victoria Street, the first of their commitments to giving the downtown a facelift.
In addition, five trees 15-feet high have been planted in each lot to add colour and dimension to the space that used to appear dusty and empty.
The city is picking up half the $20,000 bill of the project while Esso and Petro
Canada will make up the difference.
“It really begs the question, what’s next?” said Kevin Jolly, chair of the downtown group. “We felt that this would be a good first step. It’s highly visible, makes a great first impression and let’s the residents know that we’re serious about making this work.”
Trail council recently endorsed the group’s progress report, which outlined action plans for its four sub-committees – planning, development, marketing and engagement, and social.
The city has budgeted $150,000 toward downtown opportunities and action committee projects, but the majority of this money will go toward an overall three-year plan that will take into account aspects like traffic flow, parking and aesthetics.
The group’s largest task is transforming the appearance of the core.
What Milne and her husband did with the Royal Theatre, giving it a clean look all while bringing new and exciting entertainment to the city, is proof that resident will fully commit if business owners do, too.
“I think what you’re going to see is peer pressure. Once everyone around you looks good, do you want to be the only shop that doesn’t?” said Jolly. “I mean peer pressure works both ways, positive and negative, and we’re just trying to set that positive example and we believe that it’s going to set fire.”
But to make a difference, the group is looking to get the business community on board. One idea is a block captain program, where owners will take part in neighbourhood initiatives like fun window displays or a sidewalk sale.
The group would also like to see a new seasonal event introduced to the community like a farmer’s market.
“We’re really looking for a way to give people reasons to come downtown, to stay downtown, and to spend their money here, which will basically create a thriving environment again,” said Jolly. “Whether it’s sidewalk cafes, markets, live music, we want people to celebrate the downtown core.”
Working with the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation, a regional economic development function, a focus is to attract at least one new anchor opportunity such as a new museum, art gallery, Columbia River Interpretive Centre or library or new residential housing complex.
“We’re taking advantage of an opportunity, a window of time where there is some growth in terms of the industrial jobs – replenishment at Teck, the dam, 5N (Plus) – so this creates a period of time where we have an opportunity to renew,” said Jolly. “If we don’t cease this opportunity then there is no guarantee you get another one. So we felt that it was critically important to take advantage of those synergies that are already taking place.”
The social sub-committee plans to conduct a survey to gather opinions on what is seen as the impediments, opportunities and vision for social development downtown.
Residents are asked to provide feedback to the group, which is also seeking out two new members to sit on the board.
Locals are invited to share their thoughts, concepts and approaches by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. A web page has also been created (www.trail.ca/Downtown.php), and contains up-to-date information on the group’s work.