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Traffic issues downtown will be addressed

Bob Trustham, left, stops and talks to Mission Councillor Dave Hensman at the district
Bob Trustham, left, stops and talks to Mission Councillor Dave Hensman at the district's open house last Thursday at the Lesiure Centre gym. The event was a chance for the public to provide its opinion on any future reviatialization projects for the downtown core.
— image credit: Tim Fitzgerald

The will is there, now it's just a matter of putting together the final pieces of a plan to revitalize downtown.

Local residents crowded the Leisure Centre gymnasium last Thursday to give their input on the redevelopment of Mission's decaying central business district.

The district has assembled more than 30 owners, council members and other stakeholders as part of a Charrette team to help guide the process. Thursday's meeting was a chance for the public to see the work that's been done to date and to offer their opinions and thoughts on where development should go.

Jamie Shaw stopped by to get a sense of what direction future developments might take.

"The cost of housing was a big factor. We really liked the character of the houses here," said Shaw, who recently moved to Mission from East Vancouver with her partner.

Shaw is hoping the district will put an emphasis on maintaining its historical tradition.

For long-time resident Bob Trustham, any revitalization of the downtown has to start with taking traffic off of First Avenue from the Bellevue to Tim Horton's, or the corner of Horne Street.

Trustham, who has called Mission home since 1967, said he understands local businesses in that area may resist because of delivery logistics, but he's confident a solution could be found.

He also emphasized that Mission council and the local MLAs need to put pressure on the Ministry of Transportation to complete the bypass.

Sharon Fletcher, director of long range planning and special projects said the ultimate goal is to create more than just upgraded storefronts. She said the overall plan has to bring both commercial and public interests together.

"It's those other community activities other than retail. You need to do retail, and it's important, but you need to come down to your downtown for all kinds of reason," explained Fletcher.

Whether is an art exhibition or a community event, getting people to want to spend time and money downtown is the challenge of the process, she added.

Some of the district's objectives for a revitalized downtown is to redirect vehicle traffic so there is an emphasis on more pedestrian walkways on First Avenue. Also being discussed are ways to create green space in the area and increase residential density and housing choices.

Mayor Ted Adlem said he was pleased to see so many people make their way through the gym doors, saying it shows an appetite for change. He said council's initiative to revitalize the core has been a priority from day one is confident once the planning process is complete, council will move.

The district has began the process to take over First Avenue and move the highway to N. Railway Avenue.

Adlem said he believes  a university district in the downtown region will be critical to any future development and a partnership between the district, the University of the Fraser Valley, and developers  would go a long way to creating sustainability.

The community has to invest some money and will need to foster partnerships with developers, noted Adlem.

He said he feels the best way to keep a constant flow of traffic into the area is to have a university campus.

"That way you have 400 to a thousand customers kicking around each day," he said. "That might be a little optimistic, but that's the reality."

All the information from the Charrette team's meeting and the public input will be handed off to HB Lanarc Consultants, the group the district commissioned to put together the master plan. The final  report is expected to be presented to council and staff by March 31.

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