Ideas and energy fueled lively roundtable discussions on Thursday night during the first public consultation session regarding the future of downtown Mission.
More than 130 residents came to the leisure centre to hear what consultants from HB Lanarc had to say, and of those, more than 60 stayed to take part in roundtable brainstorming sessions on five downtown issues.
While the downtown has a pleasing urban context, with its traditional grid, historic buildings, beautiful views and south-facing aspect, the consultants said it also has challenges, such as the lack of civic services, adjacent cheap, developable land and a provincial highway cutting through it.
The district is paying HB Lanarc $170,000 to come up with a workable strategy by March 31 to rejuvenate commerce on First Avenue and the immediate area.
Like many historic city centres across North America, Mission's downtown competes with commercial development beyond its boundaries that ends up drawing people away.
The district mulled over revitalization plans in 1998 and 2008, said Mayor Ted Adlem, but "we didn't have a council prepared to move forward."
But once implementation plans are complete at end of March, "this council will move forward with it," he added.
After Thursday's presentation and workshops, the next step will be to create a 20-member committee, composed of interested locals and professionals to take part in a two-day charrette.
HB Lanarc urban planner Joaquin Karakas invited the public to submit applications to be part of the team. People have until Wednesday to apply.
The charrette is an intensive planning session set for Jan. 16 and 17 in which participants will hammer out some specific plans.
The team will present its work at an open house on Jan. 17.
The consultants will also talk to social agencies and business groups during the process.
The charrette team's ideas will be further distilled into a report due March 31.
The council will then decide to move ahead on the plan or parts of it.
On Thursday, Karakas presented several examples of strategies that had been implemented in other aging city centres.
These included creating public meeting spaces, incorporating chains or big box stores as anchor tenants, and drawing farm markets, festivals, civic and educational institutions to the area.
More than being a pretty place, said Karakas, a successful downtown must be an economic centre that also draws people together to share time and space in a public "living room."
Karakas noted while Mission's downtown can draw on it its stengths the challenge is to rebuild its economic significance.
A key to revitalization is to make the physically constrained area financially feasible, "which is often a hard one to crack," particularly if there are cheaper, open, undeveloped land spaces nearby.
Lanarc is using a team of land economists familiar with Mission to devise incentives to attract development and private investment.
The aim will be to create conditions to boost economic development, he said, as well as to create an environment with a "stickiness" factor - bringing in venues and services to keep people in the area for a variety of activities.
One big challenge is the Lougheed Highway that runs through the centre of town.
While it brings traffic to the downtown core, the route also brings commercial trucks that residents and shopkeepers say are dangerous. Many downtown locals would like to see the highway rerouted to bypass the First Avenue corridor, but the ministry of highways transportation has been resistant to the idea for decades.
As for where the funding would come from to pay for a downtown revitalization, "I think that money will come from the District of Mission, an upper education post-secondary institution and a progressive developer. That's what I believe," said Adlem.
? To apply to be on the charrette team, send contact details and a short paragraph on why you should be considered to firstname.lastname@example.org, bring your application to the planning department at city hall, or bring it to the Community Policing Office by Wednesday (Nov. 21).