Phase one of Downtown Action Plan kicks off

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Erica Fisher

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

The first phase of three includes conducting an inventory of the current downtown area, as well as creating forecasts for population, employment, residential market, retail and service commercial and office market in the city. An expression of interest template for the Fort Hotel lot will be drawn up, and a review of downtown parking lot designs will be included, to eventually become a 2013 capital project.

Now that the consulting firm has been hired, it's expected it will begin work within the next couple weeks, with a report available for city staff in December and council in January.

"Once you have that information," explains City Manager Dianne Hunter, "basically what it will tell you is what you have on the ground today, and then from that you need to build on where you want to go and where you want to make the changes in your downtown area."

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HB Lanarc has worked with the City on its downtown plan before, beginning with a Council and Senior Management Re-Investment Workshop in spring 2011 and the Downtown Walkshop/Workshop in October 2011. The company also worked with former City Planner Kevin Brooks on a draft outline of the downtown workplan, which identified the three main phases. However, after Brooks' resignation, the launch of the work was delayed.

"We've got a shortage of staff, and so we've decided to look at phase one only at this particular point until we get our staffing levels up again," says Hunter.

City staff believe it's important to get the ball rolling, and that the Phase One can be done before a decision about the approach is made later on. There will be no community consultation in this phase.

The City says HB Lanarc has a "substantial track record of downtown revitalization project" and is considered a leader in urban design. The consultants will also be working with Urban Systems for local knowledge. Their fee is not included in the $76,844.

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