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Athabasca looking for ways to ‘revitalize’ the downtown core

NRED Grant could see province provide up to $200,000
Town of Athabasca councillors discussed the best uses for a provincial grant that could see the town get as much as $200,000 towards an “economic development” project. Coun. Sara Graling, pictured, said the grant was a “great opportunity,” that had a lot of potential uses within the town.

ATHABASCA – Town of Athabasca councillors are looking for ways to ‘spruce up’ the downtown core through a provincial grant that could provide as much as $200,000.

During their Nov. 7 meeting, councillors voted 6-0 — mayor Rob Balay was absent — in favour of a motion to apply for the Northern and Regional Economic Development grant for the purposes of downtown revitalization, with the specifics of what downtown refers to coming in a future policy.

“To me, there’s a lot of opportunity within (the grant),” said Coun. Sara Graling. “The theatre for example, I don’t want to sell one project over the other, but I don’t want to see us miss something like this — it’s a great opportunity.”

Initially councillors had discussed the Muskeg Creek trail system as a possible project, before CAO Rachel Ramey suggested the downtown core — councillors had discussed it during budget talks, and Balay had talked it over with Ramey when they first discussed the grant.

“We have to match this grant, so if we apply, we could double this grant, and that would double the amount of business owners that could access this grant,” said Ramey.

Coun. Edie Yuill had questions about what exactly “downtown revitalization” referred to, asking Ramey, “What does that mean to you?”

“We have to match this grant, so if we apply, we could double this grant, and that would double the amount of business owners that could access this grant,” said Ramey.

Coun. Darlene Reimer said one of the biggest things she had heard at the Power UP NORTH conference in Cold Lake was the storefronts.

“When you go into a community, those are what you notice. (The speaker) talked about going into Canmore and Banff, and (the storefronts) being what you notice,” said Reimer.

During a Nov. 11 interview, Balay said that the grant would another tool for the town to continue its revitalization efforts.

“We’ve funded the beatification of downtown through floral displays and hanging baskets, there’s been some riverfront development,” said Balay. “I think we need to go beyond that, and find ways to incentivize our businesses to improve the buildings that are somewhat in disrepair.”

Ramey said the grant tied into the work council had already completed in its term, and encouraged them to direct administration to apply for the grant.

“It’s a good undertaking, there’s been a lot of discussion around unsightly (properties), and how we can increase the aesthetics in the downtown core so that we do have that welcoming feeling for visitors and residents,” said Ramey. “This would target a lot of the goals that council has been discussing.

Coun. Dave Pacholok, who chaired the meeting while Balay was gone, said that he agreed.

“It would be my number one priority to work on the downtown core revitalization project, I think that it’s sadly lacking,” said Pacholok. “It would certainly be a shot in the arm for our whole town, and everyone coming through it.

Athabasca County has also applied for the grant in the past, receiving $102,750 for a “regional branding strategy” for the greater Athabasca Region.

Cole Brennan

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