Living up to their promises, the Downtown Revitalization Select Committee is launching a series of open houses to gather public input on how they see the downtown shaping up in the future.
Getting the public involved in the planning how to revitalize downtown was one of the key factors organizers listed when they announced their initial plans in mid-March.
“2012 is scheduled to be a year of planning that will be include a great deal of community engagement and discussion,” said Barb Haynes, co-chair of the revitalization committee. “A vital piece of the process is ensuring that all of us are communicating effectively with the community.”
Three visioning sessions have been scheduled, starting next week. The first will be happening on April 23 from 1 to 8 p.m. at 284 Main St, next to Blenz Coffee. There will be another on April 24 in the Seniors’ Drop-in Centre on South Main from 2 to 8 p.m. and the third takes place from 1 to 8 p.m. at the Okanagan College Penticton campus on April 25.
The sessions differ slightly from a traditional open house. When people come in, there will be a series of storyboards, with topics like ‘our streets,’ transportation, infrastructure. Then, Haynes said, they want to hear people’s reactions, what’s good about the streets, what would they like to see.
“People will get an idea of where we’re at and what’s possible. We’re actually going to do sticky notes and let people put notes on,” said Haynes. “Instead of going out there with a plan, we would like some input as to what people would like to see, what they think should happen in the downtown. Then let’s create the plan.”
Included in that will also be concepts like cultural activities, showing where Penticton is today and perhaps what other communities have done.
“These visioning sessions are the first of many opportunities for the entire community and all stakeholders to tell us what their vision is for the downtown,” said Haynes.
While the open house format is an often-used method of gathering public input, the committee is also planning some alternative methods, designed to appeal to different sectors of Penticton’s varied population.
“The plan includes a number of concepts to include as many as possible,” said Haynes. That includes utilizing social media, text message surveys and even an alternative transportation scavenger hunt.
Along with waterfront revitalization, revitalizing the downtown is among the city’s current strategic priorities.
Both projects fall under the “Vibrant Penticton” banner: “a vibrant, innovative, adventurous waterfront city focused on sustainability, community and economic opportunity.” But it’s been made a priority in the past as well.
Coun. John Vassilaki, one of council’s two representatives on the committee, said that the failure of two previous attempts to create a revitalization plan was because of poor communications between the city and those who would be using and paying for the downtown. It is something he is happy to see change in this current planning process.
“We want to look at this as collaborative process. It’s not just communication that’s coming out through city hall website, but it’s emanating from many of us in the community as well,” said Haynes.
Once the vision stage is complete, the Downtown Revitalization Select Committee will move to the “learning phase” of planning. This will include various activities with targeted groups that will focus the feedback and input provided on things like transportation and parking.
Residents and stakeholders are welcome to give their input and feedback at any time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Regular updates on the committee’s progress will also be available at www.penticton.ca/downtown.