Downtown Trail revitalization taking shape

Councillor Kevin Jolly discusses the revitalization of Downtown Trail.

The year 2010 was a challenging one 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 as were many other cities across Canada and the US.  Nowhere was this more apparent than in Trail’s downtown core.

In response to community concern and a recognition that something had to be done, in August of 2010, the City of Trail hosted a gathering of local business operators 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 un-diversified economy, stagnant population figures, a retiring workforce and a completely new dimension of competition in the retail sector with the proliferation 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, along with Richard Daoust, Maggie Stayanovich and Gord Sims leading the sub-committees until our Revitalization Plan was fully developed.

We agreed to review the structure again prior to implementation. I am happy to report that the much talked about and anticipated MMM Group Plan is now in hand.

After much deliberation, discussion and consultation with the community, on May 8 the MMM Group 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.

The plan is available for viewing on the City’s website at www.trail.ca/Downtown.php and a condensed power point presentation is also available there that provides a high level summary of the plan and its scope.  If you don’t have access to the internet, a paper copy can be viewed by contacting City Hall at 250.364.1262.

The plan includes short, medium and long term objectives for the downtown that are prioritized into recommendations which are affordable, achievable and in keeping with our overall theme of celebrating our cultural heritage and industrial legacy of achievement.

A sneak peak of a few things you will see in the plan includes the following: A renewed focus on the Columbia River as a draw to the downtown, greening of our streetscapes, improved heritage signage and way-finding, clearly defined entry points into the downtown that invite visitors to explore, as well as upgraded sidewalks and crossings. Traffic patterns will be reviewed for efficiencies and development will be encouraged by the creation of a bylaw that provides incentives for businesses to invest in the prescribed areas.

The DOAC, Council and city staff will be working diligently to bring about meaningful change as swiftly as possible. The goal of revitalizing our downtown is one that can only be achieved through the continued support of our merchants and residents.

Your patience and commitment will be required to see this massive undertaking through and we are asking you to join us in this journey by providing us with your feedback at downtown@trail.ca.

In closing I would like to say that I am very impressed with the plan that MMM Group has delivered and I hope you will be too. We look forward to working with the merchants and residents of Trail in the weeks and months ahead as we pursue our common goal.

Kevin Jolly is a councillor for the City of Trail. Community Comment is written by elected officials from municipal councils in Greater Trail.