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Pemberton preparing for downtown revitalization

Community Futures working with business and property owners

Following Squamish council’s decision to implement a downtown revitalization program, Pemberton council is doing the same with help from Community Futures Development of Howe Sound.

Dan McRae of Community Futures said the Pemberton council had expressed a desire to find a long-term, sustainable way of revamping their downtown area prior to, and after the 2010 Olympics. McRae said the idea behind the plan is to generate more ideas and money for future and present events that would attract people to Pemberton’s downtown area.

"One of the ways we can do this is to get the business and property owners in the downtown to pay some higher tax rates at certain times," said McRae. "The downtown committee can then use that money to make projects happen. For instance, the Pemberton Folk Festival has been a great success that draws a lot of people to the downtown area, so with some more money we might be able to make that event even better."

McRae said the key to the plan was to get all the businesses and property owners to identify strategies.

"This has to be in the best interest of the land owners and merchants to use funds to help subsidize their businesses," he said. "Maybe they would want to have some sort of street festival aligned with the Olympics so when the Olympics arrive they will already have the events ready.

"It’s really about organizing and formalizing the downtown stakeholders so they can take advantage of opportunity."

McRae said downtown revitalization was important in Pemberton and Squamish because both communities are expanding rapidly, so there needs to be some focus to guide the downtown area development.

Councillor Linda Chandler said she appreciated the fact that Community Futures had approached Pemberton and was looking forward to meeting with some of the downtown stakeholders on Jan. 20.

"On Jan. 20th we’re going to get all the stakeholders together and we expect to get quite a bit out of that," said Chandler. "As to exactly what I’m not sure, it will depend on how committed the businesses and stakeholders are."

Chandler said this initiative was important because there have previously been less-than-successful efforts made to mobilize the downtown stakeholders and because there were several development proposals coming forward that will affect the downtown.

"We have tried some things like this before but they haven’t worked; there was a downtown business association for a while but that sort of just fizzled out. So we need something ongoing here."

Pemberton/Squamish downtown revitalization plan:

Phase I

• As was the case in Squamish, results of a survey indicated strong community support in Pemberton for the revitalization initiative. Eighty-six per cent of respondents indicated they believed it was important to focus on the revitalization of downtown Pemberton.

• The village council has taken steps to establish a project advisory committee comprised of council members and representatives from the chamber of commerce. At a meeting held in June 2004, the advisory committee expressed its interest in pursuing the establishment of a downtown Business Improvement Area.

Phase II

• Undertake the research and disseminate the information to the appropriate community leaders regarding steps that are required (including completing the appropriate documentation, budgeting, boundary definitions, the municipal process to enact the Business Improvement Area (BIA) designation, etc.).

• Identify and establish contact with other communities in B.C. that have undertaken successful downtown revitalization initiatives and/or have established successful BIA’s.

• Identify and establish contact with corporate and other key partners that express an interest in collaborating on the downtown revitalization initiatives in Squamish and Pemberton.