After the cancellation of the Rural Economic Development Program (RED), plans for a detailed streetscape plan to guide the Downtown revitalization plan looked bleak. The 2016 budget had $20,000 designated towards the development of the Community Improvement Plan which would have included this component, and the matching funds from the RED program would have allowed the project to proceed. Earlier this year, this provincial funding program re-opened, and staff were quick to re-apply to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) for RED funding to complete a Community Improvement Plan (C.I.P) for Downtown Millbrook.
A Community Improvement Plan is a legal pre-requisite to allow communities to use financial incentives to encourage building owners to invest in façade and other physical improvements in the designated area in order to improve the appeal of the area and ultimately stimulate economic growth. An external consultant will be hired to develop a CIP so the Municipality can establish an program of incentives directed at the enhancement of the physical environment, with the active participation of the Downtown Millbrook Revitalization Advisory Committee and Township Staff.
There is currently $30,000 allocated for this project this year, with $20,000 from the 2017 Capital Budget and another $10,000 contribution from the Millbrook Business Improvement Area. Staff has now received confirmation of approved RED funding for the project of $15,350.00 which must be matched with $15,350.00 from the Township. The project is expected to cost $30,750 and must be completed by June 30, 2018.
The city of Cobourg implemented a CIP in 2016, and it has been an important tool in the improvement of their downtown core. A 2013 survey of Cobourg and area residents undertaken as part of the Downtown Vitalization Action Plan strongly indicated an interest in the improvement in the appearance of the buildings in the downtown area, including upgrading the appearance of building exteriors, back lanes and parking lots. Respondents also provided a great deal of negative and unsolicited comments regarding the appearance of the downtown, and identified a number of specific types retail outlets they would like to come to the area.
Their program provides a combination of grants and interest-free loans to building owners with qualified projects that improve building façades with projects that include exterior siding and window replacements. The program was so successful that they extended it in 2017 with a budget of $150,000 and have approved 11 of 16 project applications valued at $85,000 approved so far this year.
The community will have a say about our improvement plan project as it develops through public meetings which will be announced later this year. KG