More than 20 business leaders and residents attended the latest downtown association meeting to passionately pitch their views for the future on the Town’s ambitious downtown revitalization plan.
Beginning in 2012 the Town of Innisfail will be reconstructing 50th street from McDonalds to Fas Gas. Many downtown business leaders are looking at ways to band together to prepare for the estimated two-year long construction period.
Debra Stoski, one of the business owners spearheading the creation of the association, said that if an official association is formed the sky is the limit as to what they could do.
Business owners discussed not only how to get through the construction but also how they could contribute to the revitalization and work with the town to enhance the downtown core.
Making the downtown an inviting and welcoming area may bring people from other towns here and even attract more businesses, said Stoski.
As the owner of the Innisfail Tire and Lube, Stoski said that although she is currently moving her business out of the downtown core, she still believes setting up a business association is important.
“If people are not shopping in town it will still affect all of our businesses,” said Stoski.
If the association is formed and is interested in taking part in the downtown revitalization funding may be an issue. The possibility of forming a Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) was discussed.
In a BRZ the businesses located in a designated area would pay a levy, or a “tax” to go towards revitalization and new downtown projects. However to form a BRZ 25 percent of the businesses in the area would have to vote in favour of a BRZ. If 50 per cent vote against it then it would be defeated. This possibility will be further discussed in later meetings.
Several names for the association were discussed with the most popular being the Innisfail Development Enhancement Association, which shortens to IDEA.
And ideas are exactly what organizers were looking for from business owners who attended the meeting and several different points were brought up regarding the upcoming downtown redevelopment.
One of the main concerns of business owners is access to their shops and stores on Main Street during the construction period.
Craig Teal, a municipal planner for Parkland Community Planning Services (PCPS), said construction will be completed in sections and that it will take around six to eight weeks to complete one each phase.
In that time the front access to business will be limited so the development of the back alleys and entrances of businesses were considered in discussions.
Traffic control in some of the main intersections on Main Street, and the connections between the new sidewalk and business entrances were also discussed.
Currently the town and PCPS are in the research stages to assess the needs of the downtown area and get feedback from businesses to plan for the revitalization.
Innisfail Mayor Jim Romane was in attendance at the meeting and said he thought there was a great turnout and that it was good to see people so energized.
Romane said he wants them to work to make Innisfail the place for people to be.
“I hope that ultimately the downtown will be an area that people outside of town will start talking about.”