Downtown revitalization plans producing results: Council report

By Kirk Winter

“A lot of great work has taken place,” Arbour said, “but there are larger projects that still need to be finished."

In a presentation to committee of the whole, Carlie Arbour, community development officer for Kawartha Lakes, and Lynne Manning, chair of the downtown revitalization advisory committee, reported to council the significant positive changes that have occurred in Kawartha Lakes communities since the implementation of wide-ranging plans for downtown improvement in 2017.

They also let council know that a handful of important projects like the construction of public washrooms in all the downtown cores, consistent signage across all the communities and the creation of a “community of practice” document to share with the next round of communities to see their downtowns revitalized will be work in progress with completion dates hopefully sooner than later.

Arbour told council that there were four pillars that were necessary for downtown revitalization in Kawartha Lakes: sound leadership and good management, improved marketing and promotions, ongoing economic development, and physical improvements that make the downtowns more accessible and attractive to shoppers and tourists alike.

“We conducted over 4000 surveys (before they began),” Arbour said. “This allowed us to get a solid foundation for each community and its needs. We wanted this to be a collaboration between the city and the communities.”

Manning was impressed with the level of cooperation and collaboration that occurred.

“We came together quarterly,” Manning said. “Many of the communities had the same issues and problems. Everyone learned to listen. There was lots of great discussion, and I believe we have accomplished the goals that were set up in the five-year plan.”

Arbour itemized for council the success of the five-year plan that had regional impact right across the city and these included the creation and implementation of the million dollar makeover program that provided business funds to improve their storefronts, the creation of municipal websites for each downtown, a business census last summer that provides valuable data for the economic development department to make informed decisions and the reconstruction of downtown Lindsay and Fenelon Falls.

“Much networking has gone on at the chamber and BIA roundtables,” Arbour said. “There have been significant improvements in communication and enhanced attentions to downtowns because of this program.”

Arbour also noted some of the very local improvements that have been beneficial to each community in its own right. These include in Coboconk-Norland the approval of the Wellness Centre, an increase in summer visitors, improved management of Lions Park and beautification efforts ongoing in both villages.

In Fenelon Falls, Arbour pointed out the positive impact of the Grove Theatre, the sculpture project, the new walking tour and downtown improvements and beautification. In Lindsay, Arbour focused on improved municipal-community relations, a necessary building and landlord inventory, the streamlining of parking enforcement, the creation of a walking tour and efforts at beautifying the downtown.

Lastly, Arbour made mention of some of the positive changes found in Omemee courtesy of the program that included the guitar shaped signage found all over the village, the murals, the live music series, a collaboration between the municipal library and Mickaels’ bakery and beautification efforts in the downtown core.

“A lot of great work has taken place,” Arbour said, “but there are larger projects that still need to be finished. These include the reconstruction and beautification of Omemee and Coboconk, public washrooms in the downtowns, consistent signage across all communities and the adoption of a Kawartha Lakes downtown framework that will share all the changes and improvements that have occurred.”

The presenters made it clear that without the participation of numerous volunteers this downtown revitalization project would not be nearly the success it is.

“Without their local knowledge and passion this (project) wouldn’t have been possible,” Arbour said. “They made all the difference.”

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