Ontario funds downtown projects

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The Ontario Government announced a $26 million investment at the beginning of this year to support main street revitalization projects throughout the province. The Main Street Revitalization Initiative, which will be administered by the Association of the Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), is part of a $40 million investment over three years in the Main Street Enhancement Fund, meant to help strengthen small businesses in downtown and main street areas.

Merrickville-Wolford has received a $40,358 grant from the province, and North Grenville has received $52,198. The funding must be used to support main street areas, as defined by the Community Improvement Plan (CIP), or any other land use planning policy, such as an Official Plan or Economic Development Strategy. The scope of the work can include items such as signage, streetscaping, or landscape improvements, or marketing plan implementation.

Merrickville-Wolford just passed the resolution to enter into the municipal funding agreement with AMO at their last council meeting on May 14. The municipality has not pinpointed what specific projects the money will be used for, but intends to consult all committees of council for their input.

North Grenville is a bit further along in the process, and has already decided to use the funding to implement phase two of a destination signage project, the installation of more parking spots along Reuben Crescent, and the creation of a tourism/cycling kiosk in the downtown.

The signage project includes a gateway entrance to be installed at the north end of Rideau Street, south of County Road 43, the replacement of 19 banner arms on existing light poles along Prescott Street, installation of 22 banner arms on existing hydro poles on Rideau/Sanders Streets, and the installation of 22 heritage street lights on existing hydro poles on Rideau, Sanders, and Clothier Streets.

The creation of parking spaces on Reuben Crescent would include a walkway through the old high school property, connecting the spaces to Prescott Street and the businesses there. This is contingent on agreement with the Upper Canada District School Board to run a path through their property.

The tourism and cycling kiosk will be erected outside the library. The municipality hopes to partner with the BIA to create brochures and maps to promote what downtown has to offer. This kiosk is already part of the municipality’s 2017 marketing plan, and is needed for the town to be recognized as a certified bicycle-friendly location.

The total cost for all these projects is an estimated $78,000. Staff has suggested that the municipality put in an application to the Eastern Ontario Development Program (EODP) for a grant to fund the remaining $25,802 needed to complete these projects. After hearing the presentation by Economic Development Officer Matt Gilmer at the council meeting on May 7, council passed a resolution to accept staff’s recommendations and go ahead with the projects.

This decision was made much to the chagrin of the members of the Old Town Kemptville BIA. BIA Executive Director, John Barclay says the signage project was not on their list of items most needed in Old Town Kemptville. Their suggestions were to use the funds to address downtown parking by converting the Post Office Park into a parking lot, create a downtown website, and explore the possibility of making Rotary Park accessible. All these recommendations were rejected in favour of the projects outlined by staff. “The BIA members specifically asked that [the signage project] not be funded,” John says.

With the Main Street Revitalization Initiative, all the projects must be completed by April, 2020. However, if the municipality is successful in receiving EODP funding, the projects would have to be done this summer, and completed by November 30, 2018, as per EODP guidelines.

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