The new year has shepherded in the final year of funding and reconstruction for the Main Street Saskatchewan demonstration program.
“By March 31, 2014, we need to have the last of the contracts signed with any of the property owners who are planning on taking advantage of the Main Street funding,” said Royce Pettyjohn, Main Street Program co-ordinator.
It is expected that the municipality will have completed the minimum nine streetscape and building facade renovations and the final contracts will be in place by the fall of 2014.
The Main Street Saskatchewan program was launched in 2011 by the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport. The three-year demonstration program includes four communities – Maple Creek, Indian Head, Wolseley and Prince Albert. The pilot project features a four-point approach for revitalizing downtown commercial districts focused on community organization, economic restructuring, design heritage conservation and promotion. The aim of the demonstration project is to get the program established province-wide. At the end of the three-year term each community will be evaluated through an audit and final report.
To date, the program has enabled the creation of the post office pocket park, with the help of volunteers from Communities in Bloom. It has also resulted in the community garden, the heritage district gateway mural, the painting of exterior of The Salvation Army thrift store and the restoration of St. Mary’s Anglican Church’s bell tower, windows and west face.
“We currently have contracts with the Jasper Hotel, the 1935 log museum, the Jasper Cultural and Historical Centre, Hair Barn, the Star Cafe & Grill and the Commercial Hotel,” said Pettyjohn.
“We’re anticipating there will be at least half a dozen more properties that will be contracted before the March 31 deadline,” Pettyjohn added.
About 10-15 per cent of the local population took part in stakeholder meetings and workshops. The project kicked off between March and June, 2012 and was followed by stakeholder meetings and sessions with the help of community planner DIALOG. Strategic planning workshops and property owner consultations followed. A draft Heritage District Implementation Plan was fabricated in July 2012 and the final plan was revealed in August of that year.
Feedback from consultant Merinda Conley has been positive for the local pilot project.
“She was the head of the Alberta Main Street Program at one point and now she is a private consultant and her feeling was that Maple Creek was not experiencing anything that was unusual for a Main Street community,” said Pettyjohn. “She felt that in her experience with the Alberta Main Street Program and other Main Street programs in the United States and in Canada that what we were seeing was very similar. Typically during the first year communities focus on organization and co-ordination. During the second year, participants work on streetscaping and engaging property owners, and during the third year most of the work is undertaken,” Pettyjohn explained.
“She felt that Maple Creek had done a much better job than other communities in creating strategic alliances with other organizations with comparable objectives. She was particularly pleased to see the work that we were doing with the Cypress Hills Destination Area and the work that we’ve been doing in collaboration with Communities in Bloom.”
Pettyjohn noted Conley was impressed with support systems created by the municipality to make the program more accessible to property owners like the Heritage Conservation Tax Incentive Program and the Maple Creek Heritage Small Business Loans Association. The loans association allows property owners to apply for up to $20,000 for those who wish to take advantage of Main Street Program funding.
Next month the town will also be presented with a unique opportunity for exposure when Pettyjohn will speak at the Saskatchewan Heritage Forum for Municipal Officials at Saskatoon.
“Part of the forum, they want to showcase innovative approaches in communities to supporting heritage conservation initiatives,” said Pettyjohn. “Maple Creek’s work not only with the Main Street Program, but also with the Heritage Conservation Tax Incentive Program, and the Small Business Loans Association for heritage conservation have been identified as something that they want to highlight, so that’s quite good news for us as well.”
Presently, members of the Main Street Program are gearing up for the Maple Creek Business Awards of Excellence. Awards will be presented for Business of the Year, Customer Service Excellence, Heritage Conservation Excellence, Tourism Excellence, Communities in Bloom Excellence and Community Spirit Excellence. The awards ceremony will be held Feb. 6, and each winner will receive a trophy in the form of a piece of artwork created by Al Hartley.