Main Streeting in Camrose

The Main Street crew standing outside the historic Bailey Theatre
The Main Street team standing outside the historic Bailey Theatre.

The Alberta Main Street Program members met in Camrose on March 5th for the first quarterly meeting of 2015. After getting an update on the activities of each of the five Main Street communities (Camrose, Lethbridge, Old Strathcona – Edmonton, Olds and Wainwright), we were led on a walking tour of downtown Camrose by the architect and Main Street Camrose member, David Roth. The walking tour concluded with a reconnaissance of the lovingly restored historic Bailey Theatre.

After lunch we were able to connect via Skype with Charles Ketchabaw of the Tale of a Town initiative. Charles and his team are working their way across Canada collecting stories about main streets in advance of the nation’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017. The Tale of a Town ‘story-mobile’ will be visiting Alberta in 2016 and Charles is looking for communities interested in contributing to the initiative. Watch this video to learn more.

A few of the Coordinators are off to experience Main Street, America-style at the 2015 National Main Streets conference being held in Atlanta, Georgia. We look forward to hearing all about it at the next group meeting to be held in Wainwright in May.

And speaking of Main Street, we’d like to remind you that you still have until the end of March to enter Heritage Canada the National Trust’s I Love My Main Street contest.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Celebrate Heritage Day

Heritage Day Poster

We all know that next Monday February 16th is Family Day in Alberta and a time for us to get together and appreciate our loved ones; but did you know that Heritage Canada The National Trust has another reason for you to celebrate next Monday? February 16th is also Heritage Day. The theme for this year’s Heritage Day is Main Street at the Heart of the Community and is a chance to appreciate our historic districts and the vibrancy they bring to our lives. Heritage Canada the National Trust has also launched their I Love My Main Street contest. Check out the link to learn how you can participate.

We believe Alberta’s main streets have many stories to tell and that their continued success contributes to healthy, diverse and aesthetically pleasing communities. As many of you are aware, the Alberta Main Street Program is designed to assist historic commercial areas across Alberta. The program is founded on the understanding that properly conserved heritage areas are destinations in themselves. When conservation is coupled with efforts to attract business, host events and otherwise create an animated public space, historic downtowns can have continued life. The Alberta Main Street Program currently has five members – Camrose, Lethbridge, Old Strathcona (Edmonton), Olds and Wainwright – who are working to ensure their main streets remain the heart of their community. The next time you travel to these communities take the time to stop and stroll the main street – you won’t regret it!

This Family Day take a moment to appreciate your local history and perhaps consider taking your family to a historic district to enjoy the sights and sounds. While you are at it, don’t forget to stop and consider the people, the businesses, the streetscape and the beautiful historic buildings which, collectively make it such a special place to be.

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

2015 Alberta Historical Resources Foundation Application Deadlines

A new year means a new round of funding opportunities through the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation (AHRF). Grants are available under the the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program (MHPP) for municipally-led heritage survey, inventory and management plan projects and are reviewed and issued four times per year. The Heritage Preservation Partnership Program (HPPP) includes grants for conservation heritage awareness, publication and research projects; as well as two heritage scholarship categories with applications reviewed twice per year. The chart below outlines the 2015 deadlines for the two programs:

Program

Please refer to the links above to access the grant guidelines for each funding program. Questions regarding MHPP can be directed to Michael Thome, Acting Manager of Municipal Heritage Services at michael.thome@gov.ab.ca or 780-438-8508 and questions regarding HPPP can be directed to Carina Naranjilla, AHRF Grant Program Coordinator at carina.naranjilla@gov.ab.ca or 780-431-2305.

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.

Visitor Friendly Main Streets

It was a blustery day for a Main Street Coordinator’s meeting but thanks to the magic of Skype we were able to be together in the same room – either physically or digitally – last Thursday in Old Strathcona.

Main Street Meeting attendees (from left to right): Shelly Hall Zenew, Henry Maisonneuve, Karen Tabor, Murray Davison, Rebecca Goodenough, Michael Thome, Donna Poon, Matthew Francis
Main Street Meeting attendees (from left to right): Shelly Hall Zenew, Henry Maisonneuve, Karen Tabor, Murray Davison, Rebecca Goodenough, Michael Thome, Donna Poon, Matthew Francis

Our friends in Lethbridge, Olds, Wainwright and Camrose joined in online while the Main Street Coordinator’s updated each other on what they have been up to since our last meeting. Everyone seems to be gearing up for a promotion or event to usher in the holiday season.

Our guest speaker for the day was Donna Poon with Visitor Friendly Alberta. The Visitor Friendly program assists communities with increasing their tourist attraction by providing an assessment of the tourist experience and recommendations for how a community may become more “visitor friendly”. The program evaluation is built around five key areas: ambiance and visual appeal; wayfinding and signage; quality of service and professionalism; public services and amenities and; visitor information.

Two of the Alberta Main Street communities, the Town of Olds and the City of Camrose, have completed the Visitor Friendly program and are currently working towards implementing the recommendations of the program. Priority projects include improving wayfinding, data collection and promotion/marketing of the Main Street story.

Donna suggested tackling a few ‘quick win’ projects to build momentum in the local community. The outcomes of the successful implementation of the program often include an increase in resident pride, a positive reputation of the community more broadly and, perhaps most importantly, repeat visitation by tourists to the community.

Visitor Friendly Alberta can be undertaken as either a self-directed project or as a facilitated project led by a qualified consultant. For more information on the program or to learn how to apply, please contact the program at visitorfriendly@gov.ab.ca.

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Growing Main Street Network meets in Lethbridge for Training

Leaders in the Alberta Main Street Program met in Lethbridge this week for their quarterly network meeting and some strategic training. The Main Street Program is a dynamic network of communities engaged in community regeneration through heritage conservation.

Alberta Main Street Program Leaders during their Lethbridge meeting, August 276, 2104
Alberta Main Street Program Leaders during their Lethbridge meeting, August 276, 2104

As frequent  RETROactive readers will remember, the network met earlier this year in Olds, and then also in May at the U.S. National Trust Main Street Conference in Detroit, Michigan. This meeting was the first for Old Strathcona since joining the program in May, and also the first for Camrose’s new Main Street Coordinator, Janet Hatch.

Each community presented a brief update on the work of their program, including organizational work in Camrose and Old Strathcona, and streetscape initiatives and adaptive re-use projects in Olds and Wainwright.

A walking tour was co-led by Ted Stilson, Executive Director of the Downtown Lethbridge BRZ and Main Street Coordinator, and Belinda Crowson, President of the Historical Society of Alberta. As we strolled through the historic downtown area, on a warm Farmer’s Market morning, Main Street leaders were able to see first-hand some of the significant heritage conservation work that has taken place in Lethbridge under the auspices of the Main Street Program.

Main Street leaders take notes on how Lethbridge's historic downtown has thrived.
Main Street leaders take notes on how Lethbridge’s historic downtown has thrived.

The group especially appreciated getting a tour of the work in progress on the Bow On Tong Building, which has also been featured on RETROactive.

After the walking tour and lunch at Mocha Cabana, one of the City of Lethbridge’s Municipal Historic Resources, historically known as Bell’s Welding, the group participated in a lively training workshop led by Jim Mountain, Director of Regeneration Projects for Heritage Canada the National Trust.

Jim Mountain, Director of Regeneration Projects for the Heritage Canada Foundation.
Jim Mountain, Director of Regeneration Projects for the Heritage Canada Foundation.

Jim facilitated a very informative, interactive session on “The Role of the Main Street Coordinator.” His insights, gleaned from years of experience as a practitioner in heritage-led regeneration – both in Fort Macleod and across Canada – were beneficial for both our seasoned veteran Coordinators and also our newer leaders.

Alberta’s Main Street leaders are already looking forward to the next network meeting and training session, to be held in Old Strathcona at the end of November.

 

 

Municipal Heritage Partnership Program Empowers Governments to Protect Local Historic Places

Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services, describes his role this way: “I manage all of the Government of Alberta’s work with municipalities to protect their historic places.” One focus of his job is running the Alberta Main Street Program. The other is leading the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program (MHPP). Both are done with the help of two Municipal Heritage Services Officers.

Matthew Francis, Manager, Municipal Heritage Services.
Matthew Francis, Manager, Municipal Heritage Services.

The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program was established in 2006 to give municipalities across Alberta the training and tools to start up and run their own heritage conservation programs in a way that “represents the best practice of what the Historical Resources Act requires.”

Matthew, who joined the branch the year before, has worked with this program from its start. He explains: “Municipalities in Alberta had been empowered since 1978 to designate their own historic places, but most of them didn’t know about that. Only a handful of communities—Calgary, Edmonton, Banff, Red Deer—had ever designated something at the local level. [The others thought,] ‘This is something we have to go to the Province [to do]’.”

“So the first several years were really about building awareness. I spent almost 100 days on the road in 2006 going all over Alberta—small towns and cities, and everywhere. We were able to tell them, this can be done locally around the council table, and through a bylaw, and we gave them the background on that, and the training, the tools.”

MHPP staff members lead workshops for local government staff, volunteers, and sometimes elected officials as well, to train them in how to protect locally significant historic places by using recognized tools. The main identification tools are surveys: research projects that gather basic historical and architectural information on possible historic resources. Conducting a survey can be a first step toward developing a comprehensive heritage conservation program. MHPP also offers workshops on heritage inventories: projects that helps a community identify places of outstanding local significance and develop a deep understanding of each place that will help the municipality determine how to protect and conserve it.

The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation offers matching grants to municipalities in Alberta that are undertaking surveys or heritage inventories or that are developing heritage management plans. MHPP staff often help municipalities craft viable survey or inventory projects that are likely to be funded by the Foundation. The MHPP also helps to evaluate grant applications, making funding recommendations to the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Sometimes staff must overcome scepticism or even hostility of those who think heritage conservation is anti-progress. Matthew responds: “A lot of people when they think about their historic buildings, they think about the past, and we’re more concerned about saying, does that place have a future? That’s the conversation that we’re trying to have.”

Ideally, each municipality will first establish what the MHPP calls a Heritage Advisory Board (HAB), although it may have a different name locally. If the local government decides to seriously pursue the conservation of its historic resources, MHPP staff will meet with the board and others to explain that process and make sure they understand the three key aspects of evaluation: eligibility, significance, and integrity. Heritage consultants—historians, planners, or others with a conservation-related background—typically do the survey or inventory work under the direction of the advisory board.

As a central part of this work, the consultant will produce a document called a Statement of Significance for each historic place, which describes why the community values the place and what about it needs protection to preserve its significance. The HAB must be able to assess the quality of each Statement of Significance, making sure that each document accurately describes the significance and integrity of the historic resource(s) discussed. The HAB will make a recommendation on designation to the municipal council.

“Our place is not to intervene in [designation decisions],” Matthew says. “Municipalities in Alberta can designate whatever they want. They’re empowered to do that. It’s the community that has the local knowledge, and that’s what we’re trying to draw out.” But, ideally, the local government will learn how to make good decisions about heritage designation—decisions that are consistent across the community and also consistent with the best practices that are in use throughout Alberta. Municipalities may also establish their own regulations for the protection of their designated historic places.

“I really love working with the Heritage Advisory Boards.” Matthew reflects. “They’re volunteers for the most part, and they’re there for a reason—it’s usually because they have some sort of personal connection to these historic places that are meaningful to them in their community. A really enjoyable part of the work is getting to hear some of those stories.”

Today, MHPP staff members usually work with a municipality by invitation, although sometimes they’ll contact a local government proactively. This may be initiated by inquiries from private citizens concerned about protecting a specific historic place. When that happens, the MHPP staff member will urge them to contact their local government, but then will follow up with government staff to discuss the option of historic resource designation to protect the resource. “And from there we’ll say, ‘Have you thought more comprehensively about taking a look at all your historic places?’”

The annual Municipal Heritage Forum, a project of Municipal Heritage Services, supports these efforts. “Before 2007 people doing heritage conservation locally in different communities had very little connection with each other,” Matthew recalls. The first forum in 2007, called a Summit for Stakeholders, had about 40 participants. “It was basically just bringing the people together and giving them some information,” Matthew says. “But [we saw that] it’s the sharing of information [that’s important]. It’s really great to see the local knowledge increase and for that information to be shared peer-to-peer.” The forum now attracts about 125 attendees each year, and has become an eagerly anticipated event for heritage professionals and advocates across Alberta.

The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program has now worked with more than 100 municipalities, and it continues to help “repeat customers” as well as communities that are new to heritage conservation. The MHPP keeps evolving, along with the communities it serves. We’ve worked with communities now that have been through the awareness cycle, so they know how to do [heritage designation], and they’re taking a high degree of ownership for this, which is what we always intended,” Matthew explains. The next step, he says, is helping them integrate heritage conservation into other urban planning initiatives—“not [treating it] like an appendage or an afterthought. Two of the flood-impacted communities we work with—High River and Medicine Hat—are working on major initiatives with their downtown planning, and I think they are leading the way on some of this.”

Municipalities have evaluated well over 1,000 historic places across Alberta since the program’s beginnings, “and that’s the number we keep an eye on,” Matthew says. “Not all of those places have been or will be designated or be protected,” he adds, “but at least they’re known. We know about them, and the communities know about them—and that’s really what matters most.”

Written by: Kerri Rubman.

Designing Window Displays and Coping with Road Construction – Tips and Tricks Learned from the 2014 Main Street Conference

The National Main Streets Conference is a big event. This year over 1,400 people attended the conference and there were approximately 75 sessions to choose from. Needless to say it was difficult to choose which sessions to attend. Of the sessions that I attended two stood out for me as being really helpful for our Main Street members: “The Naked Truth about Well-Dressed Windows” and “Main Street Makeover – Surviving and Thriving during Construction”.

Storefront Windows

Store owners only have a few seconds to convince a passerby to enter their establishment. The quality and interest of store window displays goes a long way in enticing potential shoppers. “The Naked Truth about Well-Dressed Windows” provided by Seanette Corkill of Frontdoor Back, a retail consultant based out of Vancouver, Washington, included a lot of practical advice on how to plan for and manage your window displays.

Seanette covered planning and investment for window dressings and stressed the importance of budgeting for lighting and props to build a collection that can be used over time. The decision on what type of backdrop to use is important and you can choose from full disclosure (store is visible behind the display), partial disclosure (where the store is partially visible but separated from the display) and closed (display blocked from the rest of the store). Decals are a good addition to storefront but they should be modest in size, not interrupt sightlines and placed to direct the eye to the display itself. Lighting is immensely important and should consist of tracked lighting that will light the top and front of the product on display.

The Artworks in Edmonton is known for its creative window displays. © Google Streetview
The Artworks in Edmonton is known for its creative window displays. © Google Streetview

Road Construction

Switching topics from the pretty to the dirty, Kristi Trevarrow’s session on “Surviving and Thriving during Construction” drew on her role with the Rochester Downtown Development Authority in coordinating a main street upgrade project in Rochester, Michigan. The project involved a complete overhaul of the roads, underground services and streetscape and affected their downtown main street for several months. Her responsibility was to minimize the impact of the construction project on local businesses.

Main Street Rochester, MI. © Google Streetview
Main Street Rochester, MI. © Google Streetview

According to Kristi, the key to managing business during a successful construction project is pre-planning and communication. In her case, Kristi started holding information meetings two years in advance of the construction and met with everyone she could think of including business owners, residents, local organizations, major employers, property owners and adjacent municipalities. Communications for the project included a project website with regular updates; a brochure with frequently asked questions for businesses to hand out to their patrons; a comprehensive media engagement strategy; social media updates; a field office on the main street for the project (which they built into the project contract); monthly community meetings throughout the duration of the project; and last but not least, a presence on the street every day during construction to field questions and respond to concerns. There were still hiccups that occurred along the way but the high level of planning and engagement by the Development Authority minimized negative experiences.

Both high quality window displays and infrastructure renewal projects can go a long way to ensuring your main street is looking top notch. These sessions were helpful in teaching the ins and outs of how to schedule and manage aesthetic projects from the small to large.

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer