The Elmira BIA is emphasising downtown beautification as it waits for the region to finally reconstruct Arthur Street, allowing for a more substantial facelift of the core.
The business organization’s 2023 budget calls for expenditures of $103,150, of which $74,500 is for earmarked for beautification, the likes of flower baskets ($13,000), seasonal decor ($20,000) and its storefront-improvement program ($14,000).
The Region of Waterloo has put off longstanding plans for the reconstruction of Arthur Street until at least 2027.
That’s too long to put off any work, so for now the BIA goal is to make what upgrades it can, says Jon Clay, the Business Improvement Area’s co-chair.
Along with adding more greenery and sprucing up the benches downtown, there’s a focus on the community improvement plan (CIP), which provides financial assistance for businesses looking to upgrade the appearance or accessibility of their buildings.
Businesses can apply for funding for projects such as restorative work to their storefronts, façade improvements and redesigns, cleaning, masonry, brick or woodwork, and replacement or repair work on doors, windows, awnings and the like. Beyond the façades are programs for signage replacements, repairs and redesigns, landscape grants and building improvements.
New this year is funding to help make buildings more accessible – ramps, lifts and automatic doors, for instance. With $4,000 supplied by Woolwich Township, the BIA is making up to $6,000 available for such projects. Grants will cover 50 per cent of the cost up to $2,000.
“I don’t want the CIP to sit in a drawer. It’s meant to be a tool to incentivize businesses downtown to invest in their own front space. The façades and accessibility, those are the two big streams for us,” said Clay.
When the downtown stretch of Arthur Street is rebuilt, the more significant changes can be made, the likes of sidewalks, larger trees and new lighting.
“The CIP talked about much larger spending towards bigger-ticket items for the downtown in general. With the urban core study, there was some direction that we got out of that about a bigger [overhaul]. That would be outstanding, and the BIA doesn’t even need to be in the forefront or have a hand in it – I would just love to see that happen.”
New BIA co-chair John Tsintaris says he welcomes any moves that help entice people to visit downtown Elmira.
“I think any sort of spending for the downtown core to bring more retail, more people into the core is a bonus, and is something of value. Also, trying to keep the businesses that we currently have downtown, that’s a priority.”
Tsintaris points to the planned move of the LCBO store from its current location on Church Street to the south end of town as the kind of change that needs to be countered. Likewise, the relocation of the Elmira Farmer’s Market to the same area also takes away foot traffic from the core.
“Anything that keeps people in the downtown spending, shopping, walking is always a driving factor” for core development, he said.
“As a business owner downtown and as a property owner downtown, I would like to see people stay in the core. Anything, whether that’s bicycle lanes, whether that’s better parking or more walking friendly… that could encourage people to stay downtown… would be wonderful.”