The District of Houston has recently engaged local residents, business owners and other stakeholders in discussions about its downtown revitalization project.
The so-called Placemaking-in-a-week event, which was held over three days, included walking tours, workshops, interviews, public engagement sessions and a community survey.
According to Gerald Pinchbeck, Houston’s chief administrative officer, the community survey yielded one of the highest response rates for a survey in Houston in recent memory, with over 80 responses gathered.
“The goal of all these activities was to collect information on how people perceive the downtown and how they feel it could be made better,” he said. “Sessions included gathering input on preliminary ideas that could help encourage activity and liveliness downtown.”
Initial key findings from the engagement and survey include a strong desire to improve the district’s lighting and other aspects which could improve public safety. Many residents also indicated the need to increase accessibility and safety for pedestrians and people with mobility challenges.
The public also made note of the vacant lots in the downtown area, discussing opportunities to increase the level of activity downtown and ways to make Houston more appealing from the highway.
“The team is optimistic after receiving a great deal of good information from residents and feedback on new ideas,” said Pinchbeck. “The team will now compile everything they heard and begin drafting new concepts and policies for the draft plan.”
“The goal is to have a draft plan that is practical and appropriately scaled to the District of Houston to maximize the benefits for local businesses and residents,” he added.
The final plan, which is being developed by Urban Systems, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
According to the district, the cost to implement the downtown revitalization plan is still unclear since the core planning document has not yet been developed.
Nevertheless, the district anticipates that financial assistance will be needed. Houston council has recently asked the provincial government for financial assistance to implement the plan at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
According to the district, the downtown revitalization plan is expected to provide a vision for managing and developing the downtown core into a welcoming and appealing commercial area.
The district hopes that improving the general attractiveness of Houston will help with the district’s recruiting and retention efforts. Local employers have reported continued difficulty in filling job vacancies.