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The Council gallery was full but not just for the Vitalization plan.  The audience for that was probably less than half the total.  So what did Wendy Gibson and Kevin Narraway say?   There was a lot of thanking the volunteers and revisiting the surveys done and re-iterating what people said they wanted.  We know all that - but what was the action plan?  The key item: Develop a master plan complete with a venture corporation to make the necessary finance available.

Downtown Master Plan

The Municipal Heritage Master Plan will be overlaid with key recommendations from the DBIA, Town Planning Dept., Economic Development and Tourism Dept.  It will have an emphasis on heritage buildings as well as harmonious business clusters and potential tourism product nodes.  It will specify physical appearance, conservation, rehabilitation and structure of downtown buildings.

3D Model
As part of the downtown vitalization initiative, a 3D Model using SketchUp was created. This model may now be enhanced to create a new vision for the downtown featuring all streetscape details, location of proposed public washrooms, installation of public art, additional trees and gardens.

Engineering Survey
An engineering survey of buildings on King Street, from Spring Street to McGill Street will also be undertaken. This will identify the breadth of improvements required to specific properties. Once complete, this may be added to the 3D Model and then converted to a web-based virtual tour for marketing the downtown to potential commercial business recruits, developers and residents.

Virtual Tour
The updated 3D Model and Virtual Tour will simplify complex decisions within the existing heritage framework as important building features and proposed architectural improvements will be recorded. Effectively, anyone looking to locate downtown, upgrades a building or add a sign will have bought into the model's vision.

Feasibility Study
A feasibility study on the value and potential uses of town owned properties, which could be developed to enhance tourism products, is integral to the downtown master plan. Emphasis will be on identifying the impact of a four-season destination product for downtown Cobourg.

Improvement Financing
Armed with factual information on existing buildings and a Heritage Master Plan identifying the preferred features and streetscapes of our future downtown, we will then establish a Community Improvement Venture Initiative. This entity will provide financial loans and ensure the standards set by Cobourg Town Council are met and implemented.

More detail on Key objectives

Shift towards commercial categories that enhance the town's economic strategy and promote the downtown Vision by identifying and pursuing a list of prospective businesses, in categories residents told us they most wanted in their downtown. E.g. Creative economy, hardware, clothing, brewers, vintners, entertainment promoters and food related businesses and services.

  • Implement a municipal business certification and recognition program to help improve the success of local entrepreneurs
  • Create a climate conducive to business retention and expansion with a formal client referral program, improved communication  between Economic Development, Tourism, Planning, DBIA, Chamber and the new Venture Initiative and by assisting businesses in identifying potential for expansion.
  • It is recommended that the town adopt recommendations from the completed parking study.
  • It is recommended that a King Street property be purchased and redeveloped. This building would become a working model for heritage building improvements and a repository for knowledge and best practices and guidelines for other redevelopment projects. Further, this location would become the home to an entrepreneur incubator.
  • It is recommended that the town reevaluate and complete the final phase of the Victoria Square Precinct Plan.
  • It is recommended that new way-finding signs and improved links between the waterfront and downtown be prioritized and completed. These works also include construction of new directional signs along William Street and Division Street; improvements to Henley Arcade in order to improve the experience of arriving downtown by connecting the marina, Second Street, Victoria Hall, Victoria Square and the Covert Street parking lot; gateway structures providing physical definition of the downtown in order to establish a strong sense of place. These recommended actions are reiterated in the Parks Master Plan. See also items shown in the open house in July 
  • It is recommended that the town work quickly to address complaints about poorly maintained downtown properties and consider creative solutions to encourage property owners to improve the appearance of heritage properties. Some towns and cities have entered into development agreements with property owners providing amendments to zoning in return for prescribed commitments to improve structures.
  • The town must ensure accessibility and make pedestrian traffic in our downtown a priority. This would begin with a cooperative effort between the town and business owners to efficiently remove snow and ice during the winter season.
  • The town and DBIA should collaborate to improve garbage collection from waste receptacles especially during large events or parades.
  • Create a Municipal Cultural Plan which will encourage the creative economy to Cobourg's Downtown.  This idea is explained here: www.ontariomcp.ca

For Finance:

The Task Force recommends funds be sought through the Provincial Rural Economic Development Fund to establish a venture initiative. This agency will leverage an initial town sponsored investment to fund and partner in redevelopment of heritage buildings. The venture initiative will be the mechanism that implements the redevelopment of downtown. The Task Force recommends the model for this entity is an autonomous, independent corporation reporting to an appointed board of directors with town Council representation.

Any plan needs measurable goals - in this case they were defined as:

  • More tax revenue from a larger tax base
  • Job creation (retail, services and manufacturing)
  • Increased community and visitor spending
  • A larger downtown business base
  • Understand what is working through annual tracking of business and consumer satisfaction
  • Gauge progress through annual check-ups based on the initial customer origin survey, traffic counts, pedestrian counts, value of building permits, surveys of residents, business owners and value of building permits

Timeline:

2013

  • Establish downtown coalition to pool resources, align budgets
  • Initiate business and governance plans for Venture Initiative

2014

  • Create downtown master plan
  • Remove frosted glass from downtown lights
  • Identify existing growth-oriented businesses
  • Identify and pursue new prospect businesses
  • Complete Victoria Square plan
  • Improve parking signage
  • Improve Henley Arcade
  • Install downtown directional sign
  • Improve lighting in Covert Street parking lot
  • Create working model for heritage restoration
  • Establish Venture Initiative
  • Formalize measurable goals

2015

  • Install downtown gateway and linkage sign
  • Establish business incubator
  • Create public report and review outcomes
  • Create municipal cultural plan

 Note
The above is a summary of the full Vitalization plan and was not necessarily mentioned in the presentation to council.  Full details of this plan are now on the Town's web site or you can download it here.

 

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