Downtown PG’s Annual Report Gives Pause For Pulse-Taking
Prince George, BC – Responding to criticism from Councillor Brian Skakun that the Downtown Business Improvement Association’s annual report failed to touch on any of the pervasive issues in the city’s centre, President Eoin Foley said addressing public safety and perception issues are central to every DBIA initiative.
Following Executive Director, Colleen Van Mook’s, presentation highlighting the association’s activities over the past year and outlining strategic priorities for the year ahead at Monday night’s meeting, Councillor Skakun said the slides looked good, but he pointed to concerning omissions.
“I don’t know if it’s a strategy (sic) of the Downtown Business Improvement group to not publicly say much with regards to the needle exchange issues, crime, public safety, and how people feel downtown, and I’m just wondering, what is your strategy going forward?”
Foley said public safety is at the core of the group’s mandate to revitalize the downtown, “Basically, every single project that we do, every event – whether it’s (removing) graffiti, the facade improvement – absolutely everything has safety tied in.”
As part of a city-wide Graffiti-Free program, the DBIA has partnered with a number of groups to assist with the cost and labour of removing graffiti in the downtown core. While the Facade Improvement Grant program is a partnership with the City and Northern Development Initiative Trust to encourage downtown business owners to invest in their properties. In the last eight months alone, the DBIA has approved 19 projects with a total value of close to $1-million dollars. (bar graph below courtesy DBIA)
Foley said both programs go a long way – when the downtown looks cleaner, people feel safer; when the facades have more transparency from the inside to the outside, it creates “more eyes on the street.”
“Regarding, specifically, the needle exchange program, there’s ongoing conversation with Northern Health, with the City involved closely, about what sort of better solutions we have that we can explore with that.” But Foley said the DBIA is constantly working with the City and RCMP on safety issues.
For his part, Skakun said city residents want to hear the good stuff, but they also want to know the association is looking after the “not-so-nice stuff, too.”
During the DBIA’s presentation, Councillors heard of a ‘renewed faith’ in the downtown, with more than a dozen businesses opening or re-opening since January, and another six businesses expected to start up operations before the year runs out.
Councillor Terri McConnachie commended all the “intreprid business owners” for their investment and “really bumping up the volume downtown.”
Mayor Lyn Hall made mention of a local realtor putting out several photos on social media, dubbed, ‘The New Face of Downtown PG’, showing many of the facade improvements.
Hall said it’s incredible to see what’s happening downtown and he credited the City’s partnerships with groups like the DBIA for making that change happen.
Foley, who is co-owner of Nancy O’s restaurant concurred, saying, “It’s the most positive I’ve seen downtown since we opened.”
The Downtown Business Improvement Association receives its base funding from the collection of a local tax levied on 259 parcels in the downtown core with an assessed value of more than $210-million dollars. In 2016, that amounted to $241-thousand dollars in base funding, which the association used to leverage an additional $342-thousand dollars through grants, sponsorships and partnerships.