On this very page nine years ago, I wrote an opinion column saying downtown revitalization would be simple. All we needed was a localized earthquake, cleansing fire, and a good olí Godzilla rampage tearing the whole place down. This was during a long time of community leaders who talked a good downtown game but whose actions tell a very different story ó the sad story of embarrassing highway mall sprawl and putting hotels and big boxes on precious industrial land.
Almost a decade later and the downtown is still on life support, but thanks to amazing people who just donít give up, the heart pumps strong. And today it appears we finally have leaders who are ready to put money where their mouths are.
In case you havenít heard, this council has announced that downtown transformation is our No. 1 priority going into this yearís budget talks. At this point we have a general plan of quick wins and long-term goals ó things like downtown tax incentives, cycle routes, public art, and taking advantage of the fact that our downtown is on the ocean.
This last point is the biggest head scratcher for me. How many communities would kill for their downtown to be on the ocean and here we are without even remotely using it. That is going to change.
Of course, there are restrictions to moving forward that weíre going to have to deal with. Things like staff resource and tax base allocation, the fact that thereís more to Squamish than downtown and the unfortunate reality that we canít force people to build on their land instead of leaving it vacant for years. Most importantly we cannot be afraid to act instead of just burying this initiative in another decade of studies and public consultations.
As well, downtown focus doesnít mean weíre going to ignore everywhere else, but we are going to focus as many resources as we can to moving the downtown forward. And this all comes down to budget talks next month.
It is certainly exciting to be going into a budget process with a new CAO and a unified vision as opposed to nickel-and-dime fights over pet projects and blurry agendas.
Of course there is much more on the go, but space is limited, so Iíll end as I always do with an invitation to sign up for my email newsletter (at bryanraiser.com or email me). Itís a glimpse into this nutty job and a reminder that Iím here to listen, so drop me a line anytime. That point is huge, since this job is all about communication.