By ROY WOOD
Osoyoos will spend more than $50,000 for a consultant’s report recommending ways to revitalize downtown, in an effort to entice tourists, new businesses and to help spur residential growth.
A request for proposals (RFP) went out early this week, giving interested firms four weeks to put together bids to provide the so-called Town Centre Renewal Plan. The deadline is March 26 and the RFP stipulates a maximum bid of $55,000.
Whoever the successful bidder is, they will have the help of an advisory task force that includes downtown business folk along with Councillors Mike Campol and CJ Rhodes.
In an interview Wednesday, Campol said such a study has been talked about for “a long time.” The availability of a $10,000 rural dividend grant helped lead to the decision to “do a proper study of how to revitalize (the downtown) … It ties into everything, from signage to sidewalks to attracting different types of businesses.”
Campol said a main focus would be on tourism. “If you look at Osoyoos in the summer, when the population zooms up to 12 to 15 thousand people … you find motel row packed with cars, the beaches packed with cars. But (in) but the downtown core, not a lot of action, not a lot happening down there.”
“Typically … in municipalities similar to this, the sun goes down and people hit the downtown core and go shopping and go to cafes and things like that. We just don’t see that happening here.”
Newly appointed planning director Gina MacKay will be the town’s point person on the project. Asked about the impetus for the revitalization, she provided this: “Town Centres are the heart of any community: a place to shop, dine at a restaurant, obtain services, attend cultural events, meet people, and for many, a place of employment.
“A vibrant and healthy Town Centre is especially important for Osoyoos’ continued success as a service and tourist centre.”
According to the RFP, the bidders need to address four key areas:
•Physical improvements, including streetscape and sidewalk improvements, building improvements and design and sidewalk cafes;
•Business retention, expansion and recruitment, along with increasing residential uses;
•Promotional activities, including directional signs, special events and grants for new facades; and
•Organization building, including defining roles and responsibilities, options and opportunities involving a “business improvement area, and the involvement of Destination Osoyoos.
The RFP also dictates minimum levels of public participation in the whole process, including at least one public open house, stakeholder workshops, at least one presentation to council and at least one meeting with the advisory task force.
The extensive list of objectives includes:
•Create a vision for the town centre to guide municipal and private decision making;
•Ensure viability of existing “business anchors” while creating opportunities for new ones;
•Recommend changes to town policy to facilitate the vision;
•Provide guidelines to accommodate the town’s Official Community Plan and zoning bylaws;
•Recommend economic incentives to assist new development and the rehabilitation of vacant and underused properties;
•Identify an appropriate mix of uses in the town centre;
•Ensure accessibility; and
•Provide organizational guidance, including the role of Destination Osoyoos and possibly a new business improvement association.
The other members of the advisory task force are: Joanne Muirhead from JoJo’s, Jamie Elder of Unity, Carla Jorgens from Home Hardware, Brock Jackson of EZ Rock and Bell Media, Paul Scanlon with the Watermark, and downtown landlord Marvin Gaertner.
MacKay said the project should be completed by the end of this year.