C.N.P. considers downtown revitalization plans

·4 min read

Crowsnest Pass has an incredible history, the evidence of which can be seen in buildings throughout the municipality. Over the years, however, many of these buildings have started falling into disrepair.

During its July 5 regular meeting, Crowsnest Pass council received a presentation from the municipal historic resources advisory committee with suggestions on how to help historic buildings stand the test of time.

Fred Bradley, who chairs the committee, said the municipality has an opportunity to revitalize its downtowns — particularly in Coleman, Blairmore and Bellevue — through provincial grants and programs tailored towards historic preservation.

The trick, he added, is bringing them to the attention of building owners and helping them apply.

“We have incredible, historic downtowns,” Bradley said. “You look at other parts of the province and you see they’re all modernized, they’re big box stores, all commercial — we’ve got unique downtowns. They’ve survived over the years, but it's an opportunity now to recreate some vibrant downtowns and these are some incentives we think could help commercial property owners and the community to move forward with this.”

The committee pointed to provincial programs like historic resource designations, which would qualify properties for provincial funding, and the potential to develop and pilot a new main street program for the province that would focus on restoring historic buildings.

Bradley said the committee was in communication with government staff to have the minister of culture, Ron Orr, and the minister of jobs, economy and innovation, Doug Schweitzer, visit Crowsnest Pass. Developing the new main street program, he added, would also help other communities in the province with derelict historic buildings.

The historic advisory committee recommended council could encourage owners to enhance their buildings through municipal incentives, including property tax assessment freezes and municipal tax credits for buildings with historic designation.

Another idea the committee suggested was for the municipality to enter a joint program with Community Futures Crowsnest Pass to provide property owners with a loan, with the municipality covering the interest payments.

Bradley said that though the committee was focused on historic buildings, the recommendations would be successful only under the larger emphasis of commercial revitalization in downtown cores.

“These main streets, there’s a lot of components to it. Historic buildings are only one part,” he continued. “Our buildings tell stories all over the place, and they start conversations. The more improved buildings you have, the more business it brings in.”

As such, main street programs would be most successful if downtowns were marketed well and involved business promotions to attract businesses and consumer interest, he added.

The historic advisory committee’s suggestions were well received by council members, particularly because they involved business owners and helped identify resources for historic buildings.

“Some business owners don’t know what’s out there,” said Coun. Doreen Glavin. “Sometimes business owners don’t have time to look and research [that] if they designate historic there’s money to fix up their buildings. That’s going to be key in supporting businesses.”

“It all comes down to two words: community pride,” added Coun. Glen Girhiny. “This is leaps and bounds, hand in hand, inherent in them two words.”

The recently formed ad hoc committee between council, the chamber of commerce and Community Futures, he continued, would play a key role in moving the recommendations forward.

“We [council] as a group can only do so much — the information and all of the help that’s out there has to come from other organizations,” Girhiny said.

Such co-operation was cause for optimism, added Coun. Dave Filipuzzi.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about lots, doing something for our downtowns,” he said. “I’m a little bit excited about moving forward and seeing if we can accomplish that.”

Council decided to put the historic advisory committee’s recommendations as a decision item for a future council meeting. Administration was also asked to schedule a meeting with the chamber and Community Futures either in July or August, with the historic building recommendations being the first agenda item.

The next regular council meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 16, 7 p.m. in council chambers.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting