Blackfalds downtown revitalization gets underway
After years of talking about downtown revitalization, the Town of Blackfalds is putting its money where its mouth is.
Curbing is being replaced and “bump-outs” added to help slow traffic flows, crosswalks resurfaced to more clearly delineate pedestrian paths, landscaping upgraded and deep services redone.
Meanwhile, a town-owned commercial building on Broadway Avenue is about to receive a makeover, and a giant electronic sign that will advertise local events and attractions is going up near the entrance to the downtown.
It’s all part of Blackfalds’ Downtown Revitalization Plan, which was adopted by council two years ago.
“We wanted to keep the downtown a viable area,” explained Terry Topolnitsky, Blackfalds’ planning and development manager.
The plan seeks to accomplish this by making that section of town more appealing to pedestrians, shoppers and visitors. This includes adopting consistent design standards for downtown buildings.
“There’s a colour palette to choose from; there’s a materials palette to choose from, so it won’t all look like a big cookie-cutter — all the same — but everyone is trying to come up with this common theme,” said Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol.
Other design features, like signage, are also covered in the plan.
The town doesn’t expect downtown property owners to immediately renovate their buildings to comply with the new standards, said Stol.
“When they are ready to do their facades, they’ll have something to go to.”
The town wants to set an example with its own downtown building.
“We will be re-facing it in the front, in accordance with our guidelines, and doing some painting in it and fixing it up,” said Stol.
A further incentive for downtown property owners is a grant program that was established through a $5,000 donation from consulting firm Stantec Inc., which helped develop the Downtown Revitalization Plan. The town has kicked in a further $5,000, with the money available to businesses that renovate their buildings to comply with the new guidelines.
The electronic sign, which will measure three metres by 1.8 metres, is slated to go up on the west side of Hwy 2A — next to Park Street.
“That’s really the entry feature to our downtown,” said Stol, adding that Park Street is also the main connection to the growing commercial area east of Hwy 2A.
The sign will display a steady stream of messages about Blackfalds activities and amenities, which officials hope will prompt highway travellers to stop and support local businesses.
“We know that community events are really a strong factor in economic development and economic growth,” said Stol.
More projects are planned for the future, including work on a vacant town-owned lot in the downtown.
“Within the next year, we’re going to be looking at paving that as additional parking,” said Topolnitsky.
Further landscaping and other improvements are also proposed, with this work to spread out from the downtown.
Stol said the revitalization plan was developed following studies and consultations involving local residents and business owners.
The current work poses an inconvenience to those using the downtown, she acknowledged. But weather permitting, that should end soon.
“We hope to be out of people’s way as quickly as possible.”