Provincial grant application pending for downtown improvements

If approved, $5.4 million in funding would go towards implementation of Downtown Enhancement Strategy

The Village of Pemberton is hoping the prospective approval of a $5.4 million funding application currently before the province could yield infrastructure updates for the community’s downtown core.

This is the fourth year in a row the Village has applied for this specific grant, said Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman. “I’m confident this time we’re going to get it,” he said.

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If Pemberton’s application is successful, the grant would go a long way towards funding aspects of the Village’s Downtown Enhancement Strategy. In particular, the village would focus the cash towards updating critical, but aging underground infrastructure, like stormwater systems and sewers.

“Once the underground part is done, we’ll have the ability to resurface roads, (build) new sidewalks, street lighting, trees along the street,” Richman said. “That’s the bulk of the application, and if you look at the (downtown enhancement) plan, that’s a good chunk of what’s in the plan. There’s a few other items as well in the plan, but if we get approved for this grant funding, that would push us forward in a huge way, and then we would be able to start working towards some of the other goals in the enhancement strategy.”

Originally developed in 2009, the comprehensive strategy and planning document aims to ensure Pemberton’s downtown area remains a lively, functional core of the community.

“It’s remained a priority since we’ve developed the plan,” Richman said. “We’ve always recognized that it’s really important to maintain a vibrant downtown, knowing that our population will grow. We are the most beautiful town in the world, so we know people are coming, so we have to plan for that… We want to make sure our downtown is vibrant, a good base for business and make sure it’s representative of what we feel is the character of our town.”

However, making significant progress on the plan, “is a tough one for us,” Richman explained. “A town of our size; our budget is obviously quite limited. Our taxpayers bear a large burden of the taxes, so for us to be able to put a project like this together, we’re so dependant on grants. We do our best to build reserves and put money aside for projects, but a project of that size — that’s a good chunk of cash. For us to be able to do that, we have to go and search out grants. The biggest part of this is accessing those funds through the province.”

Over the past eight-and-a-half years since the strategy was completed, “A few minor items have changed as things evolve. More than changes is that… sometimes we’ve been able to jump on a couple of opportunities,” Richman said, referencing the Downtown Community Barn as an example.

As another part of that plan, the Village also purchased the town’s train station a few years ago. “That’s what I would call the changes, we were able to identify a few opportunities, and sort of peck away at the strategy so to speak,” Richman said.

The strategy came as a result of several stakeholder workshops and a wealth of community input, facilitated in an effort to find out how Pemberton’s downtown core could be enhanced to better meet the expectations of residents and visitors. That input was subsequently developed into conceptual plans and strategic directions.The funding announcement is anticipated to take place sometime this spring.

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