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Townsite revitalization suggested at City of Powell River meeting

Ratepayers society wants improvements in business core
WANTS UPGRADES: Townsite Ratepayers Society director Dave Wheatley outlined a proposal to make improvements to Ash Avenue and Marine Avenue in the historic Townsite district.

City of Powell River council has been urged to redevelop the old Townsite business area as an economic engine for the future of the entire community.

At the October 19 committee of the whole meeting, Townsite Ratepayers Society director Dave Wheatley outlined a proposal to concentrate on a small portion of the Townsite business core to provide upgrades.

“The old Townsite business area has a strong pre-existing identity within the community at large, which will aid the success in energizing the business opportunities in this area,” said Wheatley.

He said he is suggesting some of the least costly ideas for the city planning department to develop and then engage with taxpayers for their input and ideas.

“Such a redevelopment makes economic sense for all of Powell River, as historic Townsite is listed as the number one tourist attraction in Powell River in surveys by the Sunshine Coast Tourism board,” said Wheatley. “Several times in the past, initiatives have come forth, to add trees to the area or new vintage street lamps, or to address the lack of appropriate signage, or to add diagonal parking. For whatever reason, little has been accomplished. Powell River needs to move forward on this economic development measure.”

Whatley recommended development of two streets as a simple start. These included Ash Avenue from Yew Street to Sycamore Street and Marine Avenue between Ash and Arbutus avenues.

“There needs to be a vision to inexpensively develop the streetscape of this area with an emphasis on traffic calming, with pedestrian assets and tourism assets included,” said Wheatley. “The two main streets for consideration are Marine Avenue and Ash Avenue.”

Wheatley said streetscape treatments should be given to the intersections, and where possible, vehicle speed limits should be lowered. He said intersections should be given visual treatments with crosswalks in all directions and interiors of crosswalks could be painted for visual interest and a traffic calming effect.

Differing crosswalk patterns could be used and a more welcoming sidewalk environment could easily be created with tree and shrubbery containers, he added. Wheatley also recommended multiple bike racks, plus pedestrian benches being conveniently placed on every block.

“Tourist interest can be provided with historical Townsite storyboards,” said Wheatley. “Tla’amin peoples should be invited to add their cultural input as the general area was a main historical village site for them. The city should act on engaging the public on such simple planning measures as quickly as possible. We need look no further than the excellent economic results achieved by urban planning on Granville Island in Vancouver.”

Wheatley said the wish is that a simple project such as what he is proposing could be completed within two years.

“The Powell River economy needs this revitalization,” said Wheatley. “Senior levels of government will likely have grants available for this type of economic development. We have a provincial cabinet minister who lives in this neighbourhood who could be instrumental in this regard.

“It’s an investment with the likelihood of good economic returns for Powell River. Please direct the Powell River planning department on this investment opportunity.”

Councillors respond to ideas

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said it was a great presentation and she thought they were all great ideas. She said the only thing she felt compelled to make him aware of is that Marine Avenue is a provincial highway, and the city has no jurisdiction over that.

“Traffic calming or crosswalks may pose some difficulty,” said Hathaway. “It’s not insurmountable but they do control the speed limits and whatever happens on that piece of road. Townsite looks great now but we could make it even better, and it is an historical site, so we need to capitalize on that.”

Councillor Cindy Elliott said she agreed that improving streetscapes in Townsite would be good and she thinks it would help the businesses.

“I like all of the ideas, but I’d have to do more homework around where we are at to decide what we should do next,” added Elliott.

Councillor Jim Palm said improvements to Townsite has been a dream of council for many years.

“I really like your idea of inexpensive ideas to start,” said Palm. “The foundation you are laying out, I call low-hanging fruit. The only problem I have is with all of the building going on, our planning department has been taxed, and our engineering department is under siege with our liquid waste plant. Staff time is a very valuable commodity.

“I really like the idea of somebody else taking the lead on this, whether it’s the Townsite ratepayers, in conjunction with service clubs. We would welcome seeing you bring some ideas forward.”

Mayor Dave Formosa said this is a great tool to add to the official community plan review of the area.

“It’s a good mix of things needed for tourism, residents and tax diversification,” said Formosa. “It looks great.”

Councillor and committee chair Rob Southcott said Townsite has abundant potential, and he liked a lot of Wheatley’s ideas. He suggested that Wheatley’s group could proceed with this a little further, and that’s what he would encourage.

Wheatley said he hopes the planning department can hold some public consultations.