City of Courtenay receives downtown business wish list

The Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association presented Courtenay council Monday with a "wish list."

The Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association (DCBIA) presented Courtenay council Monday with a “wish list” for tangible downtown improvements.

DCBIA president Mark Middleton said he’s seen positive changes, like improved communication between the City and DCBIA, since February — when City council and staff, downtown business owners and other interested parties met to discuss ideas to improve downtown Courtenay and attract people to the businesses there.

“There’s been a lot of good stuff going on,” Middleton told council. “We’ve had lots of great meetings, things have happened, things have changed, but I think a lot of our membership now is looking for something physical, you know some infrastructure changes, something they can see.”

The wish list he presented council included four items for the City to consider: turn on the water fountain more often; match the DCBIA’s contribution to Elevate the Arts this year; visually strengthen downtown boundaries; and improve infrastructure on Fourth Street.

First off, Middleton said he hardly ever sees the downtown water fountain on, which is located at the corner of Fifth Street and Cliffe Avenue next to the Sid Williams Theatre.

“There was a fair bit of money spent renovating that fountain and we’d like to see it on, on a regular basis,” said Middleton. “I’ve never gone by when the fountain was on and there weren’t people gathered there.”

Middleton also noted Elevate the Arts, a culture crawl in downtown Courtenay, was a great success in May, and the DCBIA wants to build on that success for the second annual event this spring.

“This is a great example of a successful event that did work, and we believe that further developing that unique free street festival like Elevate the Arts is an important ingredient to the ongoing revitalization of downtown Courtenay,” he said.

According to Middleton, the DCBIA has committed $5,000 to this year’s event. He asked the City to match that contribution, which would give organizers $10,000, or roughly one-third of what it would take to make the next Elevate the Arts a five-day festival as planned.

Request three was more lamp posts and banners to mark where the downtown core is. Middleton suggested adding lamp posts in key spots to define the area inside Cliffe to Fitzgerald avenues and Fourth to Eighth streets as downtown.

The last suggestion of the evening was sprucing up Fourth Street, which Middleton identified as the DCBIA’s “top priority.”

The DCBIA would like phone and power lines buried, sidewalks cobblestoned and curbs and cement parking bumpers installed.

“Fifth Street was done roughly 15 years ago and it’s time to get the rest of the downtown looking like Fifth Street,” said Middleton, adding the DCBIA understands these improvements would be expensive, but it’s looking for a start. “We need to get the discussion rolling so that there’s a plan in place.”

Coun. Starr Winchester said some of the items Middleton suggested, for example the water fountain, seem pretty simple. She said she supports downtown events, and wants to see a budget for banners and lamp posts, adding, “if we start chipping away at some of these things we can make a difference.”

Mayor Larry Jangula noted the DCBIA’s requests seem reasonable to him, and he pointed out council is still lobbying government for changes to the commercial tax rate multiplier to make things easier on small business.

Coun. Jon Ambler said it’s easy for council to get wrapped up in dealing with complaints from a few, citing potential complaints about the City running the water fountain while water restrictions are in place, and he believes a positive approach is important.

“The danger is for us not to focus on the positive, to sit there and to chase the individual negatives, and I think that serves us badly and I think your approach of being positive is essential,” said Ambler.