Crime prevention and poverty reduction are the most pressing concerns in Uptown Port Alberni, according to the results of a recent city survey.
The City of Port Alberni put forward a survey this spring, looking for help in developing an Uptown Revitalization Strategy. The survey included 15 questions about the social and economic priorities of the Uptown area.
City planner Katelyn McDougall and Seamus McConville of Vancouver Island University’s Masters of Community Planning program joined city council’s virtual meeting on Monday, June 22 to present the final results of the survey. McConville said the response was “significant,” with more than 500 responses from people over a period of two weeks.
More than 60 percent of respondents said that they visit the Uptown area at least once a week.
“We found that crime prevention and poverty reduction were ranked as the most pressing concerns from residents,” McConville explained.
While transportation, parking and public spaces seemed to be a low priority for most respondents, social issues and issues of crime were “universally” cited as an urgent priority, he said.
McDougall said the city’s planning department is now hoping to launch “Phase 2” of the consultation process, which will include proposed recommendations. The city has received a $22,000 poverty reduction grant from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), which will go towards planning, engagement and consultation with stakeholders, community groups and vulnerable populations.
“[The grant] would kind of go more towards the social revitalization side,” said McDougall. “Staff’s resources that we already have in place will focus on the economic revitalization component.”
Feedback will be collected and analyzed by staff to inform final recommendations to council by the end of the year.
This Uptown Revitalization Strategy is not the same as the proposed Third Avenue beautification project, which was taken out of this year’s budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Uptown Revitalization Strategy focuses on Uptown Port Alberni as a whole, rather than just one street.
“It’s not just about Third Avenue,” said Councillor Ron Paulson on Monday.
Mayor Sharie Minions added that the data is important to have.
“I don’t think anyone is surprised by the key themes and the priorities,” she said. “No matter what area of the community you live in, the priorities that we agree with are public safety, crime reduction, poverty reduction.”
Although poverty and crime reduction are not fully municipal responsibilities, Minions said there are plenty of “innovative strategies” the city can use to support these things—such as the city’s “public safety building” opening in the Uptown area.
Economic development is also connected to safety, said Minions.
“There is no better way to make people feel safe than to build a vibrant area with vibrant businesses and spaces where people want to get out of their cars and walk,” she said.