Consultant offers keys to downtown revitalization

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer

Published:

 

Flower pots and sidewalk seating help make downtown Vancouver an inviting place, said consultant Michele Reeves, but the area has a long way to go before it achieves her lofty goals.

From 3:30 to 5 p.m. today, Reeves will lead a tour through downtown as she delivers her final recommendations after six months of study. The walk will start at the Spanky’s building, 812 Main St., and end with questions and conversation at Tommy O’s Pacific Rim Bistro, 801 Washington St.

Reeves was hired by the Vancouver Downtown Association to look at strategic steps that businesses, property owners, residents and the city government could take to make the historic core more inviting.

“More traditional planning involves big-vision things that take a lot of money,” she said. “One of my goals is to get property owners, businesses, residents and government to all work together on a common vision, with steps they take tomorrow.”

In the long run, property owners can boost the feel of downtown streets by renting upstairs spaces to traditional office tenants and reserving street-facing spots for more welcoming restaurants and stores. Fresh paint on fading buildings can provide a more immediate lift.

Well-lit window displays can also make a difference by creating a pedestrian-friendly ambiance. When restaurants offer sidewalk seating, they automatically give a lift to the “streetscape,” she said.

The government also plays a vital role, but too often conversations about revitalization begin and end with big-budget public projects, Reeves said.

“All these groups have to work together to make the area as great as it can be: attractive, interesting, interactive.”