Business owners, property holders, Town staff and members of the community gathered at the municipal building last Thursday where they participated in Roger Brook’s “20 Ingredients to a Successful Downtown” webinar.
Attendees of the webinar heard examples of successful downtown areas across North America and learned how areas can work together to revitalize downtown cores through videos compiled by Roger Brooks, an internationally reknowned downtown revitalization and tourism guru.
“These seminars are for everyone to get on the same page – we’re talking about business owners, property owners and the town itself,” explained Vicki Kurz, economic development officer for the Town. “It’s intended to motivate and create momentum in the waterfront commercial district and aims to present proven ideas from Roger Brooks, while also encouraging future dialogue between property and business owners.”
Mayor Sean McIntyre, who is also a member on the Town’s Business Recruitment Team (BRT), was in attendance at the meetings alongside a number of other Council members. McIntyre stated from a BRT perspective the video series was informative and showed the importance of existing businesses working together.
“When we are talking business retention and attraction, the retention part is really 70% of the equation with attraction being 30%,” he explained during an interview following the event. “So it’s key for us to work with existing businesses to help them be successful and it contributes overall to a healthy and complete community.”
During the series Brooks touched on the idea of why so many downtown areas across North America are in need of revitalization, adding the creation of suburbs, shopping malls, and strip malls have all led to the deterioration of downtowns. However, due to a change in attitude and lifestyle across the continent, more and more people are returning to the idea of downtown shopping.
“The way people like to shop has changed over the years – but there is good news in that the evolution and popularity of downtowns is coming back,” added McIntyre. “As long as we can recognize those trends and what customers are looking for then it’s a really great opportunity for us to revitalize our own downtown with the right ingredients.”
He explained the 29 people in attendance at the video series were a good representation of those needed in order to make the revitalization successful.
“We had all of the necessary groups there to get the same information and be on the same page and understand that revitalizing an area is going to be a team effort,” said McIntyre. “More and more people are understanding that in so many aspects of community and especially this one, we really are all in this together – the only way we are going to find success here is if we all work together.”
The Mayor reinforced the idea of going beyond revitalizing the waterfront commercial and downtown district strictly for the tourism season, explaining if the downtown is going to be successful it needs to be geared towards encouraging Sylvan’s 14,310 residents to shop downtown.
“Tourism in that sense is the icing on the cake, but rather than operating for a couple months out of the year, and surviving the winter – if people focus on a local customer base they are going to thrive all year long,” said McIntyre. “Then in the seasons where we have higher visitor input that just increases the success of the business rather than their business being based on that.
“I think both town staff and council are interested in creating interest in that area and creating reasons for people to go downtown – that’s a big reason why there were so many special events in the downtown this year, to attract our own residents to the downtown. That generates business yes, but more than anything a great downtown generates a sense of community – when we are all downtown and enjoying ourselves together, everyone wins.”
The Town is asking not only those in attendance at the Roger Brooks seminars, but also anyone with interest in the topic to attend a follow up meeting on November 3rd from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Feedback gathered during this follow up meeting will provide input for the current Waterfront Redevelopment Plan, which the Town’s planning and development department is currently working on.