Opinion

In for a penny...

Chilliwack is poised to take the next big step in its downtown redevelopment.

But it could come with another price tag for Chilliwack taxpayers.

Chilliwack Economic Partners (CEPCO) is asking city hall for $65,000 this year to help fund the first of a three-year plan to initiate redevelopment of the downtown core and beyond.

CEPCO is budgeting $195,000 annually to hire a Dutch consulting firm that would find ways to encourage growth, stimulate development and fill vacant buildings. The City of Chilliwack is being asked to share some of those costs.

The request follows a presentation made to CEPCO in February by Walas Concepts – a consulting firm, says city staff, “with a proven track record in revitalizing urban cores in Europe.”

The company is promising to guide Chilliwack toward a future of innovation and sustainability, capitalizing on its strengths in agriculture, health care, education and tourism.

Chilliwack’s planning department is recommending council approve the plan.  Its argument is simple: “The focus, establishment of a business incubator and activation of vacant storefronts and spaces in Chilliwack’s downtown, is a critical addition to other current and long-term economic, social, and physical development efforts by the City, CEPCO and partners, to improve and revitalize the city core.”

Council agreed, and with barely comment Tuesday approved the recommendation.

Of course, it's  not the first time Chilliwack taxpayers have helped fund redevelopment initiatives. Most recently, they’ve paid for the purchase and the pending demolition of the Irwin Block at Five Corners.

But with more buildings coming down than businesses moving in, Chilliwack must act with imagination and innovation – because doing nothing also carries a cost. Vacant buildings and empty lots are lost opportunities for tax revenue, jobs and economic growth.

If a small investment can stimulate that growth, then it should be pursued.

“In for a penny, in for a pound.”

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