Main Street Coordinators Meet to Learn and Strategize

Local leaders from Alberta Main Street Program communities met recently in Olds for information sharing, learning best practices, and ongoing conversations about the Four-Point Approach®.  

The program, established in 1987 and now renewed with a fresh format, revitalizes historic commercial areas through heritage conservation. The bar for participation is high: communities desiring to participate must complete a Heritage Inventory  of their historic commercial area and commit to meet detailed standards of performance. Those in the Alberta Main Street Program network have met these high criteria and are committed to achieving excellence.

Alberta Main Street Program staff and Coordinators outside the historic Bank of Commerce Building in Olds.

Alberta Main Street Program staff and Coordinators outside the Bank of Commerce Municipal Historic Resource in Olds. Back row, left to right: (Leon Durand, Chair, Uptowne Olds; Michelle Jorgensen, Town of Olds Heritage Advisor) Middle row, left to right: (Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer; Matthew Francis, Manager, Municipal Heritage Services; Ted Stilson, Executive Director, Downtown Lethbridge BRZ; Carol-May Coty, Manager, City Centre Camrose; Ray Telford, City of Camrose Economic Development Officer; Ashley Stone, Program Director, Wainwright Buffalo Park Foundation. Front row, left to right: (Rita Thompson, Uptowne Olds; Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer; and Debra Aitken, Uptowne Olds Coordinator).

Alberta Main Street Program network members including Uptowne Olds, Downtown Lethbridge, City Centre Camrose, and Wainwright were represented at the coordinator’s meeting, the first in 2014.

Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Adviser with Alberta Culture, who served as the Main Street Coordinator in Ponoka and Black Diamond, delivered an informative presentation on quality design for historic Main Street communities. A key aspect of this is the area of historic signage: what is, and what is not, appropriate. While in the late 19th and early 20th centuries a “wild West” ethic probably prevailed, with “my sign is bigger than your sign” approach usually winning out, commercial areas today are governed by sign bylaws and other regulations. Can these bylaws take into account historic significance and character? The answer is  a definite yes!  – but implementation requires careful planning.

The group learned that determining heritage values and understanding the historic area as a whole provides the basis to answering these kinds of questions. The afternoon learning session sparked many interesting questions and discussions among the Coordinators. Everyone left Olds energized and looking forward to the next quarterly Alberta Main Street Network meeting, which will take place in May.

Written by: Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services.

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