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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Revitalizing Downtown Owen Sound

Owen Sound | by Liny Lamberink  

Stakeholders in City's downtown brainstorm ideas to improve core.

Photo by Liny Lamberink 

The City of Owen Sound launched its downtown revitalization project Friday, by inviting stakeholders to brainstorm ideas of what they'd like to see.

The project follows a model for downtown improvement outlined by the province, and is in partnership with the Downtown Improvement Area, OMAFRA, and the Business Enterprise Centre.

Chair of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee Richard Thomas says a survey will be sent out to business and building owners shortly, and it'll take a year to collect and assess research data.

Then, they'll move ahead with tangible projects.

"There's a good deal of momentum in downtown Owen Sound," said Thomas. "But there are still vacant stores, and people never look at the businesses - they look at the empty stores and that's their impression."

Local landlord Jon Kepler feels Owen Sound is behind other cities in some projects because it doesn't have as large of a budget, marking accessibility as an area with room for improvement.

He notes the process of improving the area is an ongoing process, and overall he feels positive about changes he's already seen in the area.

One project already underway is the Downtown River Precinct, a pedestrian district with restricted car access, 'back-door' shopping and cafes, and a riverside trail that links the Harbour to the Mill Dam.

Pam Coulter says the rough cost for phase one of the precinct project is $1.6 million, but this is divided into thirds between the federal and provincial government, and the muncipality.

A similar approach would fund future projects developed by the revitalization project, and the town would draw from appropriate reserves and tax dollars for their contribution.
"Your downtown is never finished, but it is the heart of your community," said Manager of Economic Development Steve Furness. "We have a great downtown. It looks great all year long, and we just want to keep that momentum going."




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