Vitalization Update

An announcement today by the “Downtown Vitalization Action Team” was made in front of the Vitalization communication billboard on Division Street just south of King.  The intent was to provide an update on progress being made on a project that first started in the summer of 2013.  Although a number of detailed changes have been made, the Downtown is still visibly in need of vitalization.  Henley Arcade is better, some storefronts look better but there are still empty stores and buildings.  While this is a common problem in other small towns, the money spent to date on this project has made only incremental improvements..  Any differences this year seem to come from the CIP (which arguably did not come out of the Vitalization work), improved DBIA events and the Art in Windows project.

The Town quoted Carol McCann, Chair of the Downtown Coalition Advisory Committee:

“All Downtown Vitalization projects on the billboard have now been addressed.  Furthermore, eight additional Vitalization projects have since been identified by the Downtown Coalition Advisory Committee, and are either completed or in progress.”

At the announcement, Carol also mentioned that the Victoria Square project will be a “good focus point” and that measurements – e.g. pedestrian counters – will help determine which actions are working.  The design for the Victoria Square project and the Downtown Master plan were also completed during the timeframe but not shown on the billboard. The Victoria Square rework is on hold waiting for a Federal and/or Provincial grant.

Most of the updates were given by Economic Development Officer Wendy Gibson and all items on the billboard were deemed complete – except for ongoing communications.

Mayor Gil Brocanier remarked that the work has made a difference – “there are more people downtown”.

Update summary

The list below provides the status of the 11 projects that the Downtown Coalition views as being part of the Vitalization Project.  A status report was provided by the Town but the comments below in blue are mine and not always in agreement with the Town’s version.

  1. Street Light Enhancement – complete 2014.
    Six new 100 Watt LED street lights installed.  Wendy Gibson said that more would be installed in the future.
  2. Closed Circuit Security Cameras – completed 2013
    Installation of three CCTV Cameras along King Street and monitored by the Cobourg Police Services.
  3. Vehicle Way Finding Signs completed 2014
    Signs every 0.5 kilometers along William and Division Streets pointing traffic to  downtown.
  4. Gateway and Parking Signs – NOT completed
    Gateway arches were to be installed at the East and West entrances to Downtown in order to provide definition to entering the downtown core – but this was not approved by Council. New parking lot signs are currently under review.
  5. Henley Arcade – completed 2014
    Improved lighting, signage, landscaping, walkway design and a mural on the east wall.
  6. Cobourg’s Community Improvement Venture Initiative (CIVI) – on hold and/or replaced by CIP
    An ambitious and expensive plan to provide finance and support for improving downtown buildings. It’s now on hold pending evaluation of success of the much cheaper Downtown Community Improvement Plan (CIP).  Originally targeted for completion in 2014.
  7. Cobourg Youth Entrepreneurship Pilot Project (YEP) – Completed
    Six youth were provided with support for short term businesses Downtown.  Three continued on.  The pilot project has now been completed although program seems to have shifted focus to the waterfront,
  8. Building Asset Study – completed
    Assist building owners in the assessment of their downtown heritage buildings.  No observable benefit although the study may point to possible upgrades using CIP.
  9. Heritage Master Plan – completed 2014
    Provides comprehensive guidance for the management of heritage resources, including Heritage Conservation Districts, individually designated heritage properties and non-designated
  10. Tourism Asset Feasibility Study – completed (phase 1)
    Assessed the value and potential uses of town-owned lands and buildings that may be developed to create a four-season destination in downtown Cobourg and the positive impact of such a destination on overnight visitation and spending.  Only one asset was identified as being a candidate for development – the Trailer Park.  Wendy Gibson said that “It’s now incorporated in the Waterfront Master Plan” – which looks like it will recommend no change in this asset.
  11. Marketing & Communications Plan –  Ongoing
    The Marketing and Communications plan was designed to keep citizens and key stakeholders updated on the Downtown Vitalization initiative through a multi-faceted campaign. This is separate to marketing the Downtown which seems to be being done better in 2017 by new DBIA management.  Initially there was a monthly newsletter but this stopped in 2015.  Go here for an idea of where it was at in 2015.

Each project was marked as complete on the billboard with a large check mark.  Subject to approval from the landlord, the billboard will remain in place for a month or so then the space could be used for further updates.

Although there are some noticeable improvements, they are happening slowly – this project really is still a work in progress.  One problem is that there are as many opinions on what to do as there are people.  Let’s hope that the Downtown Coalition can make some better progress in the next 12 months – having a means of measuring success should help.

Below are some photos of the event.  Present were Mayor Gil Brocanier, Councillor Brian Darling, members of the Downtown Coalition with chair Carol McCann together with staff Wendy Gibson, Alison Torrie Lapaire, Ashley Purdy, Teresa Behan and Dean Hustwick.  No members of the general public came to the event.



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Troubled waters
6 years ago

I don’t see any thing thats really New or Different being put forth by this Vitalization Team In my 50 plus yrs. of living in Cobourg its pretty much the Same old same old stuff Programs and Grants like CIPI have been offered in the past to Shop owners for improvements and New Business
but if we don’t have what the easy parking and what Buying Public Wants there is no need to shop there . Lets face it this is and was a seasonal and Summer Vacation
Town with 4 or 5 Bars and old Hotels on its main st Thats when it was alive .

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Troubled waters
6 years ago

I agree that Cobourg is “a seasonal and Summer Vacation Town” but it is also a “food desert” where visitors can’t find fresh groceries downtown. It’s either restaurant food or hot dogs and fries from a concession stand. A while back a young couple asked me at the corner of Division and King – the very heart of downtown – where they could buy stuff to make a picnic lunch and I couldn’t think of any at all. Are we in the vacation hospitality business or aren’t we?

6 years ago

What i think the plan is missing out on is that we need more people living downtown to make the downtown more “vital”. There are so many vacant/derelict apartments above the store fronts that could provide much needed housing (our vacancy rate is 0.5%) and would provide more people-traffic and potential customers in the downtown core.

6 years ago

Now if the Town of Cobourg could only help the people driving along King St. to “Visualize” the (stick-out) sidewalk curbs that reduce the roadway to one single lane with some Reflective Paint on the curb so that these obstructions can be seen at night and even more so when it is raining or during other poor visibility situations.

Hey Cobourg, the black posts with lousy reflective tape don’t cut-it.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  cornbread
6 years ago

Yes, and make those “stick-out sidewalk curbs” about a foot narrower so that bicyclists, myself included, don’t have to swerve out into the automobile traffic lanes every time we come to them. Those ill-considered obstacles are a tragedy just waiting to happen.

6 years ago

No real discernable impact. Much ado about ‘nothing’ or very little.

Troubled waters
6 years ago

Hu ! 7 years and Counting
How many of Cobourg ‘s finest does it take to screw in 6 light bulbs .
Ridiculous to think this is considered as progress

6 years ago

There was one member of the public there – me. I went along to see what was happening and ended up in the lineup – totally undeserved.