By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Coaldale town council received an update on the downtown revitalization project as the preliminary design phase comes to a close.
During their regular Nov. 25 meeting, Coaldale town council received an update on the public participation plan for the downtown revitalization project.
The plan, which was approved during the July 29 council meeting, consisted of a phased approach that started with shareholder consultations — or the landowners, business owners, organizations and agencies located on or near 20th Avenue — and broadened into a community-wide consultation starting in the fall.
The community-wide consultations included included walking tours and a brief design-based survey, both of which were promoted through a mailout in late September and posted to the town’s website.
The walking tours were available from Oct. 1-31, and one person took part in them. Spencer Croil, director of planning and community development for the town, said the tour was “fruitful” and supplied a number of points to consider for the next phase of the project.
Some of those points raised included ensuring a clear line of sight along street frontages to allow for ease of patrolling by CPO’s and RCMP; RRFBs would be helpful at every intersection; the downtown area may feel cramped for people with anxiety; a potential homeless problem once the project is completed; branding the downtown area; businesses should bring everything inside once closed for the day; the area should be connected to the rest of the community through the pathways network system in town; and establishing a community watch once the project is completed.
The online survey ran Oct. 15-31, and consisted of seven questions, for which the town received 99 responses.
The purpose of the survey was to provide guidance on the character elements of the area, with a particular focus on what style certain elements of the street should be; for respondents to share other streets and downtown areas they have enjoyed in the past; and for respondents to share what makes a main street area feel special and enjoyable to them.
“There was a lot of positive interest in the comments that were shared,” said Croil.
“What we found were common themes throughout those 99 responses, which were vegetation, places to sit and visit, a desire for more local shops and restaurants, things to do, unique and enjoyable events and activities, visibly appealing buildings and signage, cleanliness and a variety of different activities to participate in,” said Croil.
“Ultimately, what this ended up doing is acting as a double check for staff and the consultants that have been working on this project, in the sense that as we move from preliminary design to detailed design, we know with more certainty that prior to these public participation activities, that there really is a focus on wanting vegetation, certain types of signage and an appeal to the street, and the ability to participate in meaningful experiences when folks are in that part of the community. So it was very helpful to have these comments back.”
Some of the feedback included respondents preferring traditional-style elements for furnishing such as lights and benches, traditional-styled signage, lush, green hardy elements for landscaping, making the area more pedestrian-friendly and more parking in general.
Croil noted that the survey feedback had been “mirroring” what the business owners and stakeholders in the area had been saying.
The feedback will be incorporated into the design as much as possible, based on constraints such as budget and local context such as weather.
The town is wrapping up the preliminary design phase and will be moving onto detailed design phase on street-level elements of the project. The detailed design for servicing infrastructure in the area is already underway.
Spencer noted in the community-wide consultation, there had been plans for a universal access working group, but they haven’t received enough interest yet.
“We’ve been working diligently to get interest around that working group. We’ve received one application to date to sit on that group, and one member of the regional community actually reached out and communicated that they would be interested in providing some their expertise around the idea of universal access and barrier-free designs, so that’s very helpful. If we don’t end up garnering any more interest for that group, we’ll bring forward the nomination and make use of the regional community member who has offered their services.”
The working group was originally supposed to be looking at the plans during the preliminary design stage, but will now have to just look at the detailed design plans.
However, Croil said they have worked with their engineering consultant to ensure that if needed, they can change some things, so it shouldn’t be an issue.
Tendering for the project is expected to take place in early 2020, so that construction can start during the spring.
During construction, the town will be utilizing a webpage to keep the community updated on what is happening and when during construction. A mailout will also go out informing people on construction and the webpage.
Council unanimously passed motions to accept the report as information, and to approve the use of the community feedback in the detailed design of the street-level elements of the project as much as is practically achievable, with specific reference to the summary of results shared in the report.