A historic fort theme is being endorsed for Rocky Mountain House in order to turn the West Country town into a tourist attraction.
Rocky town council recently approved architectural guidelines that point developers towards using rustic, woodsy elements whenever they contemplate building or renovating, in recognition of the town’s proximity to several former fur trade forts.
Owners of businesses along Main Street and Hwy 11 are being encouraged to incorporate aspects of the “historic Hudson’s Bay fort” theme, as are developers updating the appearance of any structure. “The guidelines apply town-wide,” said Brad Dollevoet, Rocky’s director of planning and community development.
He said the idea for a theme was initially only considered for town-owned buildings. But last summer, Rocky’s Main Street Committee decided to seek a unified look for businesses that would attract more tourists downtown.
Since both parties wanted a “brand” that was unique to Rocky, Dollevoet said the fort theme made sense, since the National Historic Site that contains foundations of Hudson’s Bay and Northwest Company forts is just down the road.
“We recognized the opportunity for creating an environment that was conducive to the tourism industry.”
Although the town’s new aesthetic guidelines are not binding, Dollevoet said town officials hope that local developers see the advantages of the proposed fort look and voluntarily opt to use elements listed in the architectural guidelines to spruce up building exteriors.
Uses of river rock, field stone, timber, wooden siding, cedar shakes, and cross-beams with stucco and siding are suggested.
Overhanging roof eaves, spot-lit metal or wooden signs, window shutters and awnings or canopies are also recommended.
“They tell the story of how our town came to be through the fur trade,” said Dollevoet.
He added that man-made stone or composite wood can be used, as long as the materials are high-grade and resemble the rustic theme that should gradually spread throughout Rocky over the next few decades.
Rocky’s buildings are not historic enough to qualify for the provincial government’s Main Street renovation grant program.
To provide financial encouragement for making storefronts compatible with the local guidelines, the Town of Rocky is offering a $2,500 municipal grant that must be matched by developers.
Dollevoet admitted some verbal persuasion might be needed to bring some people around — particularly those building chain stores or restaurants that already have a certain characteristic appearance.
If the local building appearance guidelines are repeatedly ignored, he said town council might have to consider turning them into regulations, such as those in place in Canmore and Banff.
So far, he said the town’s Chamber of Commerce is in favour of the fort look, as are some merchants. “The reception has been pretty positive.”