The plan to revitalize Port aux Basques’ downtown business district was unveiled at the town’s fire hall last Tuesday night.
Steffen Kaubler, urban planner with CBCL Limited gave the audience an overview of the 100-page document his company developed for the town.
Money for the report came from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the provincial government, as well as from the town. The estimated cost of the report was $65,000, according to Economic Development Strategist Shauna Strickland.
The report was broken into three main sections: an analysis of the current downtown, solutions to make it better, and an implementation plan.
Mr. Kaubler described the current downtown area, stretching from the Harbour Restaurant to the Medicine Cabinet, as a business district that was once bustling but has lost its vitality.
He said in any community, the downtown can be an asset or a liability for business all over the town because it is largely what attracts outsiders into the community.
Port au Basques’ downtown commercial vacancy rate is at 8 per cent, which Mr. Kaubler described as enviable. He said the district is dense, convenient and walkable.
The report suggested a number of small incremental changes over time rather than a single large project.
For instance, the consulting firm said Port aux Basques would benefit greatly from better road markings, but especially lines to designate on-street parking. Although the current system for on-street parking works for locals, he said tourists probably find it confusing.
The firm designed a new logo for the downtown to help with marketing. The logo included a colour palette based on local vegetation and traditional colours. A series of street signs were also unveiled.
Mr. Kaubler said the town should turn its current municipal depot space into a greenspace, or commons in the short term. Such a space could be used for public gatherings, picnics, or informal sports events. Space might also be designated for RV parking, to bring tourists into the downtown district.
He said if flooding is not an issue there, in the long term that space might be used for a mix of commercial and residential buildings.
The town is already making preparations to move it’s depot operations to the Grand Bay West industrial park.
The proposed design included an astrolabe park across form Town Hall, which would look like an astrolabe when viewed from higher elevations.
A number of native and non-native tree and plant species were listed in the report. Mr. Kaubler showed how trees could be used not only to beautify the downtown, but also as a buffer between the street and parking lots.
Mr. Kaubler said white vinyl siding has removed much of the colour from homes and businesses. The report gave illustrations of how the Gateway Seniors 50+ club building could benefit from a street side entrance, windows, and a more traditional siding in a colour from the suggested palette.
It would be up to the town to find funding and tax incentives to encourage business owners to update their facades.
He suggested taking on parts of the project while doing routine maintenance.
The project contained a flexible seven year roadmap with benchmarks for the town to follow.
Business owners in attendance were pleased with the report.
Ms. Strickland spoke highly of the plan after Mr. Kaubler had made his presentation.
“I think it’s achievable,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but there are small things we can look at for the upcoming season.