A major part of Pincher Creek’s economic plan aims to revitalize the downtown core, and a recently announced federal grant might help with the finances needed to attract more businesses and consumers downtown.
Announced in early July, the Canada Community Revitalization Fund is available to municipal governments, non-profit groups and Indigenous organizations to help improve community infrastructure. Specifically, the eligible projects must aim to revitalize downtown cores and main streets, improve outdoor spaces, create green infrastructure and increase the accessibility of community spaces.
Successful applicants can receive up to $750,000, though projects totalling $500,000 and under will be most competitive. Additionally, priority will be given to applications that involve a 50 per cent cost share.
Economic development officer Marie Everts and economic consultant Natalie Gibson presented during the July 7 committee of the whole meeting to request council’s support for the grant application, which is due July 23.
Although council is limited in the amount of money it can approve during committee of the whole meetings, the application requires only a willingness to match federal grant funds. If the application is successful, council will still have the option of backing out if needed.
Given the recent completion of the recreation master plan, a health and social needs assessment, and the acquisition of an energy manager, Pincher Creek was uniquely placed to apply for the CCRF, said Ms. Everts.
“These factors create a unique opportunity for us, and we can use all those pieces to create a really strong application,” she said.
The quick turnaround between the grant being announced and due was a common element of federal funding, but since 90 per cent of the material needed to complete the application was ready, submitting a competitive project was possible and worth the effort, added Ms. Gibson.
“I have not seen infrastructure dollars like this come out from a funding body ever,” she said.
The project, she continued, was to focus on revitalizing the downtown core along Main Street where low foot traffic currently contributes to decreased revenue. Developing more work/life options would help create additional downtown businesses and living spaces, addressing workforce housing shortages the town is currently grappling with.
“We’ve put together a plan on how to put together a 21st century downtown core, what we call a vibrancy and revitalization plan,” said Ms. Gibson.
The plan involves building up on existing infrastructure rather than out, maximizing available space and providing room for businesses and people to move into the community.
Incentivizing development by lessening the financial risks of investors will also encourage more businesses to start up, increasing the number of available services; providing residential buildings downtown will likewise bring more people to the area, increasing service demand.
Ultimately, the plan aims to turn Pincher Creek into the region’s amenity hub by 2026.
The total project application ask is $490,000, half of which council agreed to consider providing upon the grant being awarded. The majority of the grant will be used for improving downtown infrastructure, with $260,000 quoted for construction, restoration and enhancement of things like buildings, sidewalks and living spaces.
Coun. Lorne Jackson said the grant was a way the town could move forward with its vision of economic development, much of which had been under recent criticism.
“As much as some people really don’t realize it, we are working very hard to make this community more viable,” Coun. Jackson said.
The grant was also a proactive way to move ahead with plans without needing to rely solely on town funds, added Mayor Don Anderberg.
“If we don’t do this, then we’ll have to find another way of doing it and the only other way is money that’s collected from individual taxpayers in the community,” he said.
While acknowledging that federal grants come from federal taxes collected from residents, the mayor said applying for such funding was the only way to ensure those local dollars were reinvested back into the community instead of being spent somewhere else.
The next council meeting will be held Monday, July 26, 6 p.m. at council chambers.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze