Powell River council hears ideas for historic district
The town council of Powell River was asked to redevelop the old townsite commercial district as an economic engine for the future of the entire community.
At the plenary committee on October 19, Townsite Ratepayers Society director Dave Wheatley presented a proposal to focus on a small part of Townsite’s core business in order to provide improvements.
“Townsite’s former shopping district has a strong pre-existing identity within the community as a whole, which will help boost business opportunities in this area,” said Wheatley.
He said he suggested some of the cheapest ideas for the planning department to develop and then engage with taxpayers for their input and ideas.
“Such redevelopment makes economic sense for all of Powell River, as the town’s historic site is listed as the number one tourist attraction in Powell River in Sunshine Coast Tourism Board surveys,” said Wheatley. “On several occasions in the past, initiatives have emerged, to add trees to the area or new vintage lampposts, or to remedy the lack of proper signage, or to add diagonal parking. For whatever reason, little has been accomplished. Powell River needs to move forward with this economic development measure.
Whatley recommended the development of two streets as a simple start. These included Ash Avenue from Yew Street to Sycamore Street and Marine Avenue between Ash and Arbutus avenues.
“There has to be a vision to inexpensively develop the streetscape of this area with an emphasis on traffic calming, with pedestrian and tourist assets included,” said Wheatley. “The two main streets to consider are Marine Avenue and Ash Avenue.”
Wheatley said streetscape treatments should be applied at intersections and, where possible, vehicle speed limits should be lowered. He said intersections should receive visual treatments with crosswalks in all directions and the interiors of crosswalks could be painted for visual interest and a traffic calming effect.
Different crosswalk designs could be used and a more welcoming sidewalk environment could easily be created with containers of trees and shrubs, he added. Wheatley also recommended several bike racks, as well as conveniently placed pedestrian benches on each block.
“Tourist interest can be provided with historic Townsite storyboards,” Wheatley said. “The Tla’amin peoples should be invited to make their cultural contribution as the general area was for them a main historical site of the village. The city should act to engage the public in such simple planning measures as quickly as possible. We don’t need to look any further than the excellent economic results achieved by urban planning on Granville Island in Vancouver.
Wheatley said the wish is that a simple project like the one he is proposing can be completed in two years.
“Powell River’s economy needs this revitalization,” said Wheatley. “Higher levels of government will likely have grants available for this type of economic development. We have a provincial minister who lives in this neighborhood and who could play a decisive role in this regard.
“It’s an investment with the likelihood of good economic returns for Powell River. Please direct the Powell River Planning Department on this investment opportunity.
Advisors react to ideas
Councilor Maggie Hathaway said it was a great presentation and she thought they were good ideas. She said the only thing she felt obligated to let him know was that Marine Avenue is a provincial highway and the city has no jurisdiction over it.
“Calming traffic or crosswalks can be difficult,” Hathaway said. “It’s not insurmountable, but they control the speed limits and whatever happens on this piece of road. Townsite looks great now, but we could make it even better, and it’s a historic site, so we need to build on that.
Councilor Cindy Elliott said she agreed that improving streetscapes in Townsite would be a good thing and she thinks it would help businesses.
“I like all the ideas, but I should do more homework to figure out where we are to decide what we should do next,” Elliott added.
Councilor Jim Palm said townsite improvement has been a dream of council for many years.
“I really like your idea of inexpensive ideas to start with,” Palm said. “The foundation that you lay, I call the fruit at hand. The only problem I have is with the whole building going on, our planning department has been taxed and our engineering department is under siege with our liquid waste plant. Staff time is a very precious commodity.
“I really like the idea of someone else taking the lead, be it the Townsite taxpayers, working with the service clubs. We would love to see you come up with ideas.
Mayor Dave Formosa said this is a great tool to add to the official review of the area’s community plan.
“It’s a good mix of things needed for tourism, residents and tax diversification,” Formosa said. “Sounds very good.”
Councilor and committee chair Rob Southcott said Townsite has abundant potential and he really likes Wheatley’s ideas. He suggested that Wheatley’s group could take it a step further, and that’s what he would encourage.
Wheatley said he hopes the planning department can hold public consultations.