N.B. downtown plan moves ahead

By Angela Brown
March 14, 2017 - 6:05pm Updated: March 15, 2017 - 10:38am

The city's plans to revitalize downtown North Battleford are coming a little closer to reality after council reviewed a consultant's report on the project at Monday's council meeting, March 13.

It had an open house recently and received public feedback on the report, known as the Downtown Revitalization Action Plan.

Council approved a motion to adopt the new downtown master plan in principle as a guiding document for the city's future development.

"I'm very, very happy to be able to endorse this," Coun. Greg Lightfoot said.

Mayor Ryan Bater said the specific details of projects in the plan involving capital investment and developing infrastructure will come to council gradually in the future.

Since the local movie theatre is being renovated, it will be able to act as an anchor for future downtown development when it is completed, City Manager Jim Puffalt said.

"We're absolutely thrilled to be able to present this to council," he said. "This is something we have been working on in excess of two years to provide a plan for the revitalization of the downtown."

The plan was prepared primarily by landscape, architecture and community planning experts Saskatooon-based firm Crosby Hanna & Associates. 

Mayor Bater said these proposals will be part of council's ongoing budget discussions on an annual basis in the years ahead. 

Council will review each part of the plan and its recommendations as the items come up. 

The plan also outlines "character zones," designated parts of the downtown core that can be improved to attract visitors and tourists.

The plan identifies some current detractors, however, such as large areas with vacant buildings in the downtown core, that need to be addressed. It also recommends adding benches and bike stands downtown to encourage visitors to the downtown core.

"It's an overall philosophy of city council that the downtown is important, so we are going to spend some efforts to revitalize it," Puffalt said, adding in the budget for this year the city is spending over $1.5 million on downtown infrastructure work. "That includes not just the asphalt and sidewalks but the lighting and benches whatever is necessary, included in that report.

"That certainly is something, when you talk budget-wise, those were issues that were noted."

Puffalt added some aesthetics need to be considered as well.

"Appearance-wise, we need to do some work. There are a ton of reasons to do that, most importantly to bring a sense of pride to the community," he said.

In the next five years of budgeting, the city will look at how the downtown revitalization work will be included in its projects. 

"It's important the downtown is recognized. It's cheaper to revitalize than build new," the city manager said. "It's an important part of our community." 

Renaming some of the downtown streets is one recommendation included in the report. 

Bater said there are various recommendations within the plan council can tackle throughout the year.

The plan recommends renaming 101st Street to King Street and renaming a portion of 100th Street to Main Street. 

"Those are the kinds of things we can deal with outside of a budget discussion. It's up to this council for the next three years, and future councils, to take this plan and work with administration, and use it as a guiding document to set the course for downtown revitalization in the next 10 to 20 years," Bater said. "It's important to turn that plan into action."

 

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