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Sparks of vitality in downtown core becoming evident

Just as happens on the beachfront every year, the warmth of the summer sun has sparked a new vitality in Sylvan Lake’s downtown core.

Just as happens on the beachfront every year, the warmth of the summer sun has sparked a new vitality in Sylvan Lake’s downtown core.

Empty storefronts are filling with new businesses and existing businesses moving to higher traffic locations.

While several reports came together at the same time this week, renewed interest in the downtown area has been underway for months.

Release of the April building permit statistics showed there’s a $2 million investment underway at the former Cobb’s AG Foods building. Construction fencing has been erected closing a portion of the parking lot during renovations which will convert the building to a two-storey galleria including a restaurant and patio as well as four suites for retail businesses on the main floor. Then the second floor will include five suites for offices or personal services.

Although no tenants have been named, it’s extremely encouraging for all who are concerned about the ebb and flow of the downtown business core to see investments being made and changes coming.

Cobb’s Clothing remains open during the construction and there is parking in front of the business, accessible through the alley between CIBC and the construction fencing.

At the foot of 50th Street, Hockey Central Memorabilia has been renovating the former Smugglers location. Their development application received support from Municipal Planning Committee members at Monday night’s meeting and will be on the agenda for final approval at the council meeting Monday night.

They’re planning to run the memorabilia business on the main floor and create a 140-seat sports lounge on the second floor. The application indicated a $50,000 investment in the renovations.

On the east side of 50th Street, the former tattoo parlour and Candy Factory building is once again being used. Benjamin’s Pizza hung its sign earlier this week after moving from it’s 53rd Street location.

Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce members were told last week, the south side of that building will contain a convenience store in the near future.

There will also be a more concerted effort by town staff to engage landowners in both the downtown area and in ‘Area G’ — that area south of the tracks which extends along the Railway Park Promenade from 46th Street to 50th Street — in developing plans for the future.

Pressed by councillors who reviewed project reports on the Centennial Street (50th Street) Design Development and Area G Master Plan - Concept, Tim Schmidt, director of planning and development, admitted they “didn’t utilize enough staff resources” to contact building owners. They hand delivered personal invitations in the area for a March meeting which reviewed schematic redevelopment concepts.

“We took a step back and are going over, re-doing some steering committee engagement,” he responded to Councillor Dale Plante’s question.

“I spoke to landowners, building owners who didn’t know about the meeting,” said Plante at the Apr. 22 council meeting. “We should be backing right up, re-doing what we did with all stakeholders there.”

“That’s what we’re doing,” admitted Schmidt.” We did not put enough resources into it initially.”

Councillors had previously been critical about lack of attendance at the meeting. “It’s very unfair downtown businesspeople were characterized as uninterested because of attendance at the meeting,” said Plante.

All of this is good news for the future of the downtown core — there are investments be made, plans are being prepared and those most affected are being engaged in how to revitalize an area which can become a very vibrant part of our community.

There are also opportunities waiting for the right ideas and investors — you just have to look at some of the vacant land. As the summer season progresses we’re sure ideas will be bandied and visions will be created.

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