This January the provincial government announced they were investing up to $26 million into rural downtown revitalization. Through the Main Street Revitalization Initiative, municipalities can fund projects that will support and benefit small businesses, such as signage, parking, trails, streetscape improvement and marketing plan implementation including business attraction activities and special events. North Grenville qualifies for $52,198.96 worth of funding (over twice the annual BIA budget !).
This all seems like very good news for Downtown Kemptville and the efforts to continue its revitalization. However, due to the upcoming elections, Municipal governments are required to sign a funding agreement as soon as possible and indicate how these one-time funds are to be spent. Staff recommendations are to be presented the Committee of the Whole on April 16th. Not much time to consult with stakeholders and develop a plan.
Luckily the BIA enjoys a close relationship with the Municipality. We are, after all, a Committee of Council, so when the news hit regarding this opportunity we were already in contact with the Economic Development Department and they attended our February Board of Management meeting to brief us and to consult.
On March 21st, the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area Board of Management passed the following: “Be it resolved that three ideas to be presented to the Municipality regarding use of the Main Street Revitalization Funds: 1) Parking as a priority for the downtown; 2) Development of a downtown website; and 3) Accessibility for challenged people to the Rotary Park area”. If Council agrees then these ideas must be developed and costed in short order.
The BIA has been very active over the past year in advocating for improved parking to meet current and future needs downtown. A request to identify and create additional off-street parking was included in the BIA’s deputation to Council during their budget deliberations in the fall of 2017. In 2010 the Municipality conducted a Downtown Kemptville Commercial Area Parking Study and then two years later a Strategic Action Plan was written based on that study. It identified a number of recommendations to manage demand, improve supply and promote alternatives. One of the “long term” (2020 and beyond) recommendations contained in the 2012 Strategic Action Plan was: “That the Municipality acquires another large public lot in the downtown commercial area”.
If we encourage people to shop, dine and explore Downtown Kemptville, we need to provide them with enough adequate parking. This continues to be a common complaint among downtown merchants and customers alike. The question, as always, is where is the money going to come from? With the recent announcement about the Main Street Revitalization Initiative, we might just have the beginning of an answer.