Turner Valley business owners looking to improve the look of their storefronts can get a little help from the Town before the tourism season kicks off.
The Town of Turner Valley is launching its storefront enhancement pilot program this month, providing matching grants of up to $5,500. The funding is intended to help cover the costs of exterior upgrades that align with the Town’s downtown design guidelines.
Businesses approved for the pilot project will receive a maximum of $5,000 for the storefront and $500 for new signage to help replace or add signs, doors, windows, canopies, painting and other modifications.
“The idea is based on the Main Street principles,” said Monique LeBlanc, community services and business development manager. “If you look at the Black Diamond Main Street program, it was very successful. There was an investment and care taken upfront for some of the planning of some of the areas.”
LeBlanc, who presented the program to council on April 3, said the storefront enhancement pilot program is based loosely on the former Alberta Main Street Program principles. She said it will help businesses in the commercial area of Main Street and Sunset Boulevard improve their appearance.
She said there are about 70 properties in Turner Valley that could be eligible for the funding and the $60,000 budgeted for the program this year will allow the Town to partner with approximately 10 businesses this year.
A portion of the funding is drawn from business licence fees and the rest from unallocated reserves.
LeBlanc expects the storefront enhancement program will help the town retain its businesses, increase exposure, improve the overall look of the business area and stimulate the local economy by employing local workers in the trades.
The municipality will provide architectural design guidelines and consultation through a contracted professional service, she told council.
“Architectural designing will be very important,” she said. “We have guidelines established in 2006 which are still guiding principles, according to the boomtown design reminiscent of the history in the area. There’s a little bit of wiggle room to be able to incorporate personal and corporate preferences into the design.”
In the event a property is larger than the typical footprint of a Turner Valley business, LeBlanc said allowances could be made to exceed the $5,500 limit.
“There are exceptions to the rule,” she said. “It will be rated according to the quality of the proposed façade enhancement and then be allocated accordingly.”
The same goes for the guidelines established for business storefronts, said LeBlanc.
“There is room for some interpretation and some exceptions,” she said. “It’s quite a hefty document and for business owners it becomes quite a bit of a task to go through it all. We’ve already condensed some of it down. It’s between the business owner, the architect and the team that’s making the decisions.”
LeBlanc said the storefront enhancement program was a request that came from merchants.
“They said repeatedly that they would like the Town to partner with them to improve their economic possibilities and we hope this will kick start that,” she said.
The owner of the Black Diamond Bakery said he and other businesses benefited from a similar program offered to merchants in Black Diamond years ago.
“It was like a facelift for Black Diamond,” said George Nielsen. “The old town looked a lot better than it did before.”
In addition to improving the appearance of downtown, Nielsen said the Main Street Program also contributed to tourism.
“It certainly improved Black Diamond as a tourist attraction tremendously in the summer time because now it looks like a western town,” he said.
Nielsen expects the program in Turner Valley will provide a boost for his colleagues to the west.
“It will definitely benefit Turner Valley,” he said. “An upgrade like that will benefit any town.”
LeBlanc said the Town will review the pilot program once it’s complete and will make recommendations to continue it again next year.
“We hope it’s something that will be considered further down the road,” she said. “We think it will make a dramatic impact on the appearance of downtown and provide businesses with an opportunity to see some economic benefits from it.”
Councillors told LeBlanc they support the storefront program, that it will be a benefit to local businesses.
“This is really great,” said Coun. Barry Crane. “I’m really excited about this.”