The municipality has pulled the trigger on a definitive plan to revamp the village, injecting new life and soul into tired squares and strolls.
This week staff picked consultants Three Dimensional Services Inc. and Hapa to create a "kit of parts" of physical improvements for the village.
They have a budget of $45,000, and just over three months to deliver the game plan, so work can begin in June 2014.
The idea is to move as quickly as possible with improvements that deliver the biggest bang for the buck, and create a noticeable positive improvement around town.
For Drew Meredith, Whistler's former mayor who has been involved in these "business enhancement" discussions over the years, the news of concrete steps going forward is welcome.
"The village is one of our best assets and we all appreciate that it just doesn't refurbish itself," said Meredith. "So here we go.
"Any time these guys put money into public stuff, it's fabulous."
According to the Request For Proposals for the consultants, quietly released on Feb. 24 and closed to bidders on March 10, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is looking to enhance the guest experience and support business success.
The RFP states: "The aim is to heighten the experience, slow the pedestrian flow through the Village, increase dwell times within each neighbourhood, and generate word of mouth promotion from resort guests."
The village has several key "portals" or entryways, which are underperforming in a variety of ways, from creating a sense of arrival to delivering that "wow" factor.
Improving these is one of the major tasks of the project.
The village is also now divided into distinct and separate neighbourhoods from the Marketplace to the mountain zone. Another task is to develop a creative, but distinct, look and feel for each neighbourhood.
The RFP states: "These will increase wayfinding efficacy, create distinction and identity among the village neighbourhoods and elevate the sense of discovery as one moves through the village."
Meredith remembers the familiar refrain several years ago that locals just didn't go into the village any longer. He did some research.
"The municipality and Tourism Whistler had chosen to stop all village animation, period," he said. "So what was happening was people were showing up and they were doing this death march from Marketplace to the mountain, going up the Peak 2 Peak, coming down, and death marching back to their car. Nothing to hold them. And when they (the municipality and TW) turn that back on, all of a sudden the locals are back in the village again. It's that sensitive."
There is no budget as yet for what the improvements will cost.
In response to a question about the budget, the municipality's communication department emailed: "The budget for the phased improvements through 2014 and 2015 will be established upon budget approval."
The 2014 municipal budget is set for council approval next month.
"I think the important thing is they get a process going and they get some budget money," said Meredith. "Maybe it's a multi-year deal... Maybe this is their way of cementing the program and ensuring that it survives from one council to the next."
consultants sought for Cultural Connector project
The municipality is also looking into hiring consultants that could work under staff's direction in the development of Whistler's Cultural Connector project.
This project looks to improve the physical, visual and experiential connectivity between six significant cultural institutions in the village and the Upper Village, such as the museum, the library, the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre and the Audain Art Musuem, now under construction.
"The project will celebrate Whistler's emergence as a vibrant cultural destination, and knit with other Village planning initiatives designed to improve our guests' experience," states the Expression of Interest document.
"It is envisioned that through the process a series of potential initiatives will be identified," it states. "Initiatives will then be prioritized with first priority items being sufficiently detailed in time for the annual municipal budgeting cycle (Autumn 2014).
"Municipal staff possesses considerable insight into the subtleties of this project and are seeking assistance in realizing opportunities."
The EOI was issued on Feb. 25 and closed on March 10.
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