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Downtown Action Plan bolstered by $150,000 federal grant
By Maria Spitale-Leisk
Around the same time Mission council adopted the Downtown Action Plan in July, the district received a $150,000 grant, from the federal Gas Tax Fund, which should cover most of the planning costs.
Sharon Fletcher, director of long-range planning and special projects, said the district applied for the federal money last fall, prior to starting work on the plan that would revitalize Mission’s downtown core.
“A plan of this magnitude would approximately cost $200,000,” Fletcher told <I>The Record<I>.
If the planning costs turn out to be less than $150,000, leftover funding would be reallocated towards implementing the plan or other municipal projects.
District staff has already begun work on a key component of the Downtown Action Plan: reclaiming First Avenue from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and having North Railway Avenue be a two-way street for vehicle traffic.
“We have support in principle from [the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure] provided that we can prove that Railway Avenue can handle the traffic volumes over time,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher anticipates the district should learn by late fall if Highway 7 commercial traffic will be re-routed to Railway Avenue — and if the province will cost-share the project.
Designed to attract business investment, the creation of an incentive package — which could include tax exemptions and building facade improvements — is another facet of the downtown plan currently being explored.
A report, which will include recommendations for policy changes to make it more economically viable to invest in the downtown area, is expected before council in the fall.
Overall, the plan is a series of “doable,” discrete capital projects for improving public spaces in downtown Mission, said Fletcher.
The changes to the downtown core will be rolled out methodically, and council will need to approve projects within the plan.
“If I were guessing, I'd say we will be done in five to 10 years,” said Fletcher.