Revitalization planned for downtown Guysborough

GUYSBOROUGH — In a move that local officials are calling a first for the “shiretown” of Guysborough, the community is embarking on a thorough downtown makeover with a consultant’s comprehensive renewal plan due by the beginning of next year.

“The plan aims to revitalize, present the conditions for future growth, preserve cultural heritage and improve infrastructure,” said Ashley Cunningham Avery, executive director of Guysborough District Business Partnership (GDBP), in an email to The Journal last week, adding: “I believe this is the first plan to include both the Main St., as well as the waterfront. Separate plans have been done for both pieces, but not as a combined comprehensive project in recent years – if ever.”

The Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) Shiretown Revitalization Plan – jointly managed by the MODG and GDBP – will encompass the space stretching from Guysborough Memorial Hospital to the Chedabucto Shopping Centre.

According to the request for proposals (RFP) issued last week, the selected consultant will be responsible for “identifying key priorities and goals,” including: economic development; infrastructure improvements; historical and cultural preservation and enhancements; active transportation; and gathering spaces.

The consultant will be expected to “engage” municipal and GDBP board and staff members, local businesses, community organizations and government agencies. It must also “review and incorporate elements and recommendations” from the recently completed 13 Ways Strategic Direction prepared for the GDBP by Alberta-based community developer Doug Griffiths; the Guysborough Waterfront Cruise Readiness Report; the Tourism Guysborough County Association’s strategic plan; and municipal land-use documents and bylaws.

The RFP says that MODG has “identified the Shiretown of Guysborough [as] the primary growth centre for the municipality, and is proactively working to improve the economic environment for its citizens, businesses and visitors” in anticipation of “several major industrial projects expecting to begin in the coming 24 months.”

It also noted that a similar project was commissioned for Canso, “the second-largest service hub,” in 2020, and that it now seeks proposals to “develop a similar plan for the Shiretown of Guysborough” and to “conduct a review/gap analysis of the Canso Community Enhancement Plan and determine if consolidation of the two [plans] is recommended.”

In an interview with The Journal last week, MODG Councillor Paul Long (District 1, representing Guysborough, Erinville and Guysborough Intervale), who is also chair of the Guysborough Waterfront Development Society, said it's been “20 some years” since studies on revitalizing the “shiretown” have been done. “Not a whole lot came out of that [and] it’s time to relook and refocus and do whatever we have to make the town a little more vibrant, to welcome people here to make it a place that they not only want to come and visit but [also] live here for the long term.”

In addition to this planned work, last month MODG approved spending $170,000 on a six-month contract to Halifax economic research firm ATN Strategies to help it plan how to support the major, new industrial development expected across the municipality over the next several years.

Said Long: “All these things, [including] the Canso revitalization of their waterfront, go hand-in-hand so that the whole municipality has a growth to it... We have to get people thinking that we are a place to be, not just a drive by from Halifax to Cape Breton.”

According to Avery, the contract for the revitalization plan – with a not-to-exceed price of $50,000, funded equally by the MODG and GDBP – is expected to be awarded next month.

The final report will be due in January 2025.

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal