On Monday, November 21st, I was pleased to attend the Stittsville Village Association event, “Reinventing Stittsville Main Street”. The discussion focused on potential business growth in the heart of our community and raised some insightful discussion amongst business owners, landowners and residents in the area.
First and foremost, I would like to thank the participants for coming out to support this event, Quitters Coffee for hosting it and the Stittsville Village Association for putting it all together.
Stittsville is fortunate to have traditional Main St which celebrates the local history and heritage of our community and as a resident and former business owner on the street, I would like to reaffirm my commitment to ensuring the village-feel of our ward remains intact as Stittsville continues to grow.
In 2009, I requested the creation of the Stittsville Main Street Community Design Plan (CDP) to ensure that a blueprint was in place for the progress of future developments on the street. This CDP has proved useful on items such as the revised Stittsville Walk renderings which now reflect a much more traditional design approach.
However, the CDP is not enough to maximize the potential of our Main Street. While the CDP does not actually promote growth it does set the stage and guidelines for good development that encourages the elements of a strong main street specifically built form that is pedestrian friendly.
There are a number of factors that could influence development on Stittsville Main Street such as:
- Public realm improvements play an important role (street lighting, benches, the new gazebo etc.).
- Encouraging mixed uses within the Main Street Corridor to encourage and attract other new business, residential uses and office type uses. A mix of uses is fundamental to the success of a main street and commercial uses are required at grade in the Village Core which will hopefully assist in achieving an active commercial village hub.
- Establish a Business Improvement Area (BIA) to foster growth and work with new development. A BIA is an association of commercially assessed property owners and their tenants within a specified geographic area who join together, with approval of the City in a self-funded program aimed at attracting shoppers and tourists to the area, and undertaking beautification projects. Funding for a BIA is provided through a levy added to commercial property taxes and all funds from the levy are provided to the BIA. The City also has a number of grants available to assist with BIA start-up consultation costs, research activities and mural design.
I feel strongly that a BIA would bring many benefits to Stittsville Main Street and would be an important key to modernizing Stittsville Main Street. A BIA would be well-positioned to develop an Investment/Business Attraction Strategy for Stittsville Mainstreet. A strategy such as this would help the area to develop a focused and targeted approach to identify and generate potential business investment leads. BIA-initiated improvements and activities can also help to create and sustain a more vibrant economic environment within an area, which may increase demand for retail and office space, decrease commercial vacancy rates and increase property values.
I am continuing my effort to engage businesses in this process but the difficulty is such an initiative needs to be driven by the businesses. While I have heard from businesses that are supportive of a Stittsville BIA we still need some businesses that are willing to step forward to commit their time and efforts to establishing a BIA. There is initial effort that is needed but following the formation of the BIA there a paid staff who can undertake the work of the BIA and the City also provides a number of support services as well to assist BIAs.
I urge any business that is interested in participating in a steering committee to please contact me and we can work together with the City’s Economic Development Branch to move this initiative forward.