Jennifer Koppe with Studio 818 visited council virtually to provide a presentation and subsequent conversation about revitalizing Youngstown’s main street to make it more appealing to visitors and residents alike.
The presentation as part of the Youngstown Community Development Project was shared with council on Tues. April 6, focusing on street lighting, trees and other greenery, sidewalks and wayfinding signage.
After a review with some locals, three conclusions were made about future success of the village; implementable outcomes, local decision makers working together to implement revitalization, and supporting locally based businesses
A key to this, the studio found, is by revitalizing downtown through upgraded infrastructure and a refreshing theme that represents Youngstown.
Koppe highlighted the need for interesting spaces that attract people that is designed on what the community needs like social interactions, a sense of place, beautification, gateways and tactical urbanism.
She also suggested in her presentation that Youngstown look at better lighting and wider sidewalks to allow for a pleasant pedestrian experience.
Mark Nikota of Cactus Corridor Economic Development was at the meeting in-person and has been working with Koppe as well as others to get a theme going that reflects the region and particularly Youngstown.
Coun. Ken Johnson noted that boulevards separating the sidewalks from the street haven’t worked well in the past as roots from the boulevard trees often bust sidewalks up from underneath and residents were more willing to maintain the grass if it was a continuation of their lawn, and not in a boulevard on the other side of the sidewalk.
As for a theme to link the community, it was suggested to be consistent so the museum’s participation was a must.
As councillors and presenters had a good brainstorming discussion Coun. Johnson suggested storefronts, historical signage and possible replacement of the current welcome signs.
The studio will now engage in a four-step process to further their feedback including getting ideas from youth, interviews with businesses, and open houses for the community before reporting back their findings.
After the presentation, Nikota shared what he has been up to as the economic developer for Cactus Corridor Economic Development Partnership Corp.
Coal transition and irrigation projects are moving ahead in research.
The possibility of an Agricultural Centre has piqued interest as thoughts of having a main space located possibly near Cactus Corner be the place for education, and house a research centre, riding arena, veterinary services and more.
For Youngstown specifically, Nikota has been working on regional marketing, focusing on a new website for the village as well as new branding and a logo/theme to promote
Nikota has been gathering basic information of each community Cactus Corridor serves (Hanna, Special Areas, Youngstown) as many businesses interested in moving to the area are in need of information quickly to get a feel for the community and understand what services are available.
He has been in touch with Incinertech, the bio-waste and hydrocarbon thermal treatment to energy company from Calgary about their status as they have indicated their intention to build in the Cactus Corner area.
Nikota has also spoken with the mine, bringing value added agriculture and other agriculture dominant themes as well as Travel Alberta and Travel Drumheller for tourism planning and marketing.
He asked council if they wished to be a part of a similar program Hanna is doing promoting of residential land development as a focus.
With many moving away from urban areas because of the pandemic, the town has seen an uptick in home sales.
To ride this wave, they are thinking about making a spec home which councillors agreed would be good for their community as well.
Later in the meeting, Lester Klassen, owner of the Small World Cafe came to council with an idea that tied in rather nicely with the main street beautification idea.
He suggested the village invest in creating a small walking park filled with benches, tables, sidewalks and trees to draw people in and give visitors a place for outdoor enjoyment.
He also suggested having this park south of his cafe as the space is currently empty grassland.
Klassen added that he did not want to make this project about furthering his business but rather focus on having an outdoor space people can visit as there are few options at the moment, mentioning if this was a real option, he would start fundraising to get it going.
Council felt it was a great idea to look into further when discussing more of the downtown revitalization.