Thursday, October 27, 2016

Atlantic CoastGuide


St. Stephen BIA unveils plan for future development - Jan. 22, 2014

Image provided
This is a conception for University Plaza, a park and gathering area envisioned for a section of the river across from St. Stephen’s University.

Kathy Bockus
St. Stephen
An approximate $5 million development plan for downtown St. Stephen presented Thursday to town council and community business leaders last week garnered enthusiastic response.
“It was an excellent presentation,” said Mayor John Quartermain. “I think some of it’s within our control.
“Council was receptive. Anybody I spoke to was positive, but we have to be cautious and realistic. It will have to be a phased in approach; it can’t be whole hog.
“But at least we have a vision. I don’t want to see it put it on a shelf.”
Quartermain said there are parts of the plan, as presented, beyond the town’s financial capabilities.
“There’s parts of it I think that are going to have to be private investment. But we can certainly work with private investors to remove any roadblocks.
“As far as area of the civic centre and hotel, we can certainly start developing their vision for there,” concluded the mayor.
“This has been a long time coming. We’re very pleased,” said Kevin Stuart, chair of the Business Improvement Area (BIA), which initiated the plan created by Glenn Group Landscape Architects and Park Planners.
“We are pleased council showed up; we need their buy in, we need them to adopt the plan,” said Stuart. “Whether there’s any exchange of cash, we just need them to adopt the idea at this point.”
Stuart said the council’s adoption or approval is vital, “so when they’re making future decisions they’re following this plan.”
Dale Weeks, president of the St. Stephen Area Chamber of Commerce, said the BIA’s plan “fits in with the Chamber’s revitalization program under community development.”
He said priorities would have to be set and resources found.
“I thought the presentation was exciting,” said Weeks. “It’s big, and it’s all part of making St. Stephen the best town in New Brunswick.”
Former St. Stephen Mayor Allan Gillmor said the town, the Chamber of Commerce, the BIA and Development St. Stephen all have to become champions of the plan in order for it to become reality.
“It’s all about pride in your community,” said Gillmor. “I see it as sort of redecorating. We’ve established the infrastructure. Even the (St. Croix) river is part of that infrastructure, the Chocolate Park, the town square, the Gateway Park that was all developed a long, long time ago. It’s all about redecorating, revamping those.
“It’s time to move on. It’s kind of been neglected. It’s time to bring it up to date,” recommended Gillmor.
Stuart concurred the plan - which calls for more green space, unique boutiques and shops, wheeled market carts, a paved walking trail, an artificial turf, multi-use sports field, and more pedestrian friendly parks and streets - needed to be broken down into separate projects which will be started when money becomes available.
The BIA paid for one quarter of the cost of the $28,000 plan; the rest was paid for by a successful application for funding through a federal, provincial initiative negotiated by BIA New Brunswick.
“The projects will be done as money is available,” said Stuart. He said BIA members worked hard to include every relevant project they could think of so when the next phase of funding to work on those projects becomes available, the projects mentioned in the plan will be eligible. Projects not included won’t be eligible.
Stuart said he hopes when it comes time for the landscaping and ground work to be completed around the Garcelon Civic Center and the Best Western Premier St. Stephen Hotel & Suites slated next to it, developers will take into consideration the proposed urban development plan.
Just because federal or provincial funding is not yet available does not mean parts of the plan cannot be started, said Stuart.
“There are things that need to be done, groundwork that needs to be done before we are even ready to do projects. There are a number of things in there that won’t need financing. We need to go out and find developers to do some of these projects.”
The plan was presented, with the assistance of a slide show, by company president Dan Glenn and landscape designer Jennifer Allan. Glenn told those attending the presentation at the St. Stephen Legion that someone must take the lead for the development plan and advised them to begin small parts of the plan now, not to wait for funding.
“When you can identify and have a vision it’s amazing what comes out of the woodwork,” Glenn said, referring to potential investors.
Glenn said the plan should be implemented, ideally, in three to seven years. Longer than 10 years and the plan would have to be redesigned.
Glenn said the town has lots of tourism potential but that it hasn’t a plan for it. He and Allan both advised the town to capitalize on its riverfront access.
“A proper strategy could develop serious potential and capture tourists who are looking for something to do,” said Glenn. “Create an atmosphere and a buzz. Keep the charm, use technology, stress the public waterfront, push the waterfront at every opportunity because it’s one of the things that makes you different.
“Deliver an authentic experience, find out what your unique characteristics are and capitalize on them.
“This is your plan. You can do it,” said Glenn. “It’s smaller than the civic centre, but it will take you further. It will bring people back.
“Make the changes and find a way you can melt it all in there so it still feels like the same place.
People don’t like change, but when things change they love the result.”
Stuart said because the plan was a BIA initiative and funding will become available through the BIA, the BIA will take the lead.
“Some of these projects are larger than what we are able to do,” said Stuart. “That’s why we need to partner with the municipality, the development board. It will be a joint effort, but someone has to keep it in the forefront and it’s looking at this point that it’s going to be the BIA.”