Conceptual plans viewed

Conceptual designs to enhance the Historic Downtown have been presented to the district’s stakeholders and after adjustments are made could be presented to town council as soon as Mar. 29.

The response to the plan seemed to be positive, said Suzanne Gaida, senior manager of Community Services, who is working jointly on the project with economic development. Some suggestions were made and are being incorporated into the plan.

“We showed the merchants the renderings and the ideas that we had for what we want to do downtown and everyone was fairly positive, which was good,” said Gaida. “There’s a few little tweaks, but most people were happy and want to see it happening.”

Karrie Peace, chair of the Historic Downtown Cochrane Business Community, said the Mar. 15 presentation went well and there was a decent turnout of merchants.

“They had nice large poster-sized drawings with pictures of trees and benches along First and up some of the side streets,” said Peace. “They do plan to plant trees in the sidewalk. It will provide shade over the benches, and a place to string lights. They had some different sized archways placed at the intersections going into Historic Downtown–the big ones look quite grand. Pretty picture, for sure.”

Follow through, of course, is the big thing, but she’s holding out hope.

“The skeptic in me says, ‘So we have slick renderings and money spent on a vision–we have seen it before’. However, it does feel different this time; it feels like they may actually do something more than just appease us with pictures.”

Currently the report is being drafted by economic development manager Mike Korman and it is hoped it will be ready in time to present to town council for consideration on Mar. 29 or by Apr. 11 at the latest, said Gaida.

“At the next meeting we’re hoping to present the renderings as well as the report and then we will be, based on council approval of the report, be bringing some budget adjustments forward at a future date.”

The major goal right now is get the improvement plan approved as soon as possible so the town can start work on the first phase of the project.

Town council has established the project as a priority and the timelines set out by town department’s collaborating on the project have so far have been close to bang on target.

In addition, negotiations are underway to find a home for downtown public washrooms. Town council discussed the options during an incamera session at its Mar. 14 meeting.

“We’re diligently working to try and acquire a site in the downtown and we’re getting close, so hopefully, fingers crossed, if all bodes well we’ll be able to get council to approval some agreements there and if not it would be (April) 11th at the latest to be asking for a purchase or a long-term lease and the money to build them.”

Permanent public washrooms have long been a bone of contention in the Historic Downtown and it has been challenging to find the right location. There are currently public washrooms in the Homestead Building with the Visitor Information Centre but they are a distance from the shops in the Historic Downtown. Last summer the town located Port-a-potties on the dead end on 104th Ave. as a temporary measure.

“It was really about finding the right space,” she said.

“We will be open this year if we get the space.”

Gaida became involved in the project because the parks department’s expertise will be required for the tree plantings establishment of seating areas. But on a personal level, she’s excited to be part of the project.

“I’ve lived here for so long, and I love the Historic Downtown.”

Read the Cochrane Times article here.