Retail gap analysis provides recommendations for Sylvan Lake

Revitalizing Sylvan Lake’s downtown means creating more “body heat,” says a retail gap analysis.

Revitalizing Sylvan Lake’s downtown means creating more “body heat,” says a retail gap analysis.

Town council got its first look on Monday at the second phase of the retail analysis designed to identify future retail opportunities and locations.

The plan builds on earlier work that pinpointed the best retailers to draw to lure visitors, as well as identifying shortcomings in services and businesses catering to locals.

Richmond, B.C.-based Consultants MXD Development Strategists came up with almost a dozen recommendations for council to consider.

In the waterfront district, incentives should be offered to encourage two-to-four-storey mixed-use residential developments to increase “body heat” in the area.

A fast-track approval process could also be considered for the area, where municipal non-commercial or public space areas could be created.

Other ideas include more scheduling of year-round activities, showcasing regional artists with live/work spaces; supporting outdoor patios, craft brewers and mobile vendors, and assessing what audience the town is missing out on.

The report points out successful efforts in Comox and Penticton, B.C. and Port Hope, Ont. in attracting visitors through vibrant restaurant sectors, farmers markets and other draws.

Sylvan Mayor Sean McIntyre said the municipality and chamber of commerce have been working together on developing the waterfront and downtown identity.

“Chiefly, our goal there is to attract our own residents to that zone as part of their daily lives, (although) of course, visitors have a large impact on that area as well,” said McIntyre.

Mixing residential and commercial development is one strategy to boost the numbers of people on the ground to support restaurants, shops and other businesses.

Many communities across North America are pursuing the same goal.

“It comes from the knowledge that people like to shop and eat and spend their time near to where they work and live,” he added.

“It’s not just a business initiative. It’s a community initiative. A healthy downtown contributes to a healthy community.”

McIntyre said council’s goal is to create a “complete community,” where all sectors, residential, commercial, recreation, commercial and recreational meet local needs.

Changes to bylaws affecting land use, development styles, and new initiatives, such as limited mobile vending, are already being adopted by council with a view to supporting economic development.

Government, the private sector and residents must all be on board for these sorts of initiatives to be successful, he said.

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