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Pemberton looking to jazz up its downtown

Survey sought public input on improvements; village’s potential showcased at open house

Walking through Pemberton is like a trip into the Old West.

A novelty watertower greets you at Portage Road. A nearby condo development might as well be the set from Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven . There are hitching posts at the parking spaces of the town's most popular restaurant.

Beyond this, however, there's a full five blocks of downtown area, and much of it could change in the coming months, if residents have their say.

That downtown area is the focus of an enhancement project currently being led by the Village of Pemberton. But before it puts pen to paper on the exact changes the town is looking for, the village wants its citizens to tell them what they're looking for.

"As we were going through our strategic planning, even through budget, there were a whole bunch of different line items that related to downtown," said Caroline Lamont, the village's manager of development services. "There (have) been a few initiatives previously and certainly there's been increased improvements from existing businesses."

The process for improving downtown is multi-fold. It starts with an online survey asking for feedback from Pemberton's citizenry.

The anonymous survey, now closed, asked residents a series of questions about who they think should lead development, what kinds of amenities they'd like to see downtown and what specific improvements they want to see brought forward.

Lamont read off a series of responses in an interview with Pique and they range anywhere from demanding more businesses to more public space.

For a question asking what the single most important improvement would be, respondents mentioned developments such as more business, new streetscapes, new parking requirements, as well as a water park or playground.

There were also demands for more gathering places for children and families, as well as a central pedestrian-only area and a new information centre.

"Rather than doing a study, we prefer a hands-on approach where the community and businesses tell us where we want to go with downtown," Lamont said.

As for improvements planned already, she said the area near the train station, on the edge of downtown, is slated to be an entryway park and parking lot, with some opportunity for more green space.

"That whole parking area, the two parking lots, we will be getting ownership, hopefully, in an upcoming subdivision of that land around the train station," Lamont said. She added that individual businesses have already embarked on their own improvements.

"There's some businesses that have plans that they want to do with patios. Also there's new buildings and... continuing to expand the sidewalks."

The window for public input hasn't yet closed for downtown improvements. The VOP will be hosting workshops today (April 30) at the new community centre. One will be a stakeholder/landowner design workshop to be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and another is a community open house to showcase the downtown's potential. That will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

As for other survey results, Lamont reported that 98 per cent of participants said the village should be involved in revitalizing the downtown, while 78 per cent said it should be business owners. Just over half said that property owners should be making the difference in Pemberton's downtown.