Coun­cil ap­proves new mas­ter plan for Swift Cur­rent down­town

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG — mlieben­berg@prairiepost.com

A three-year process to cre­ate a new vi­sion for Swift Cur­rent's down­town reached its con­clu­sion when coun­cil­lors ap­proved the new down­town mas­ter plan for use at a reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing, July 30.

The de­vel­op­ment of the new mas­ter plan started in 2015 and the City con­tracted ur­ban plan­ning con­sul­tants to guide the process, which in­cluded four pub­lic en­gage­ment events.

The first pub­lic en­gage­ment event took place in Novem­ber 2015 and the fourth one was or­ga­nized in Jan­uary 2017.

Michael Ruus, the City of Swift Cur­rent's gen­eral man­ager of plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment, felt his de­part­ment achieved the goal to in­volve res­i­dents in dis­cus­sions about the down­town.

“This was re­ally the first project that our team took on where we re­ally pushed to en­gage as many peo­ple within the com­mu­nity as was pos­si­ble,” he said. “I think in large part we were able to achieve our goals on that side of things with over 300 peo­ple at­tend­ing our in-per­son meet­ings, whether it be stake­holder group meet­ings or one-on-one meet­ings with in­di­vid­ual prop­erty own­ers or busi­nesses or our open houses, and hav­ing over 200 peo­ple re­spond to our on­line en­gage­ment fo­rums is fan­tas­tic. So re­ally this en­tire plan and project is the sum of hun­dreds of peo­ple’s in­put over this three-year pe­riod.”

The pur­pose of the mas­ter plan is to pro­vide a vi­sion for the fu­ture of the down­town and it in­cludes strate­gies to achieve the down­town re­vi­tal­iza­tion ob­jec­tives in the City's strate­gic plan.

The mas­ter plan in­cludes de­tails about 12 cat­a­lyst projects cre­ated by the con­sult­ing team to present ideas about changes in the down­town area that will pro­mote greater con­nec­tiv­ity and eco­nomic vi­tal­ity.

These cat­a­lyst projects are just con­cep­tual and it does not mean the City will be im­ple­ment­ing any of them. They were de­vel­oped to give res­i­dents, busi­ness own­ers and in­vestors an idea of what is pos­si­ble in the down­town through a com­bi­na­tion of fa­cade im­prove­ments, adap­tive re­use of ex­ist­ing build­ings and mixed-use de­vel­op­ment.

The new mas­ter plan in­cludes a down­town de­vel­op­ment pat­tern book that can be used as a vis­ual ref­er­ence and im­ple­men­ta­tion tool to en­sure com­pat­i­ble de­vel­op­ment and re­de­vel­op­ment within the down­town district. Ruus noted the pur­pose of the pat­tern book is to be a vol­un­tary ed­u­ca­tion guide for down­town de­vel­op­ment, and it will be used by the City for plan­ning pur­poses.

“As part of our de­vel­op­ment of the pat­tern book, one of the big projects moving for­ward is de­ter­min­ing what our new stan­dard is go­ing to be in the down­town for our streetscape,” he said.

The mas­ter plan con­tains a lot of de­tails and it will there­fore not mean that there will be an in­stant trans­for­ma­tion of the down­town area.

“The in­tent of this plan is to phase in im­prove­ments over time,” he said. “So we’re look­ing more at in­cre­men­tal change than chang­ing the en­tire down­town overnight.”

Ruus and his team will now take a good look at all the strate­gies out­lined in the plan to de­ter­mine how these prin­ci­ples can be in­cor­po­rated into fu­ture plan­ning for the down­town area.

“Some of them we’ve al­ready started, know­ing that they have been iden­ti­fied in other projects such as the busi­ness re­ten­tion and ex­pan­sion pro­gram,” he said. “One of the pieces out of that was our wayfind­ing sys­tem, and find­ing that com­mon­al­ity with the down­town plan made it re­ally easy to get that moving as soon as pos­si­ble. So we’ll have that com­pleted this year even with hope­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion in 2020, but we’ll start to pick away at those pieces that are most fea­si­ble to move for­ward in the short term and then for those larger pieces in the plan we’ll be work­ing at tak­ing it step by step, mak­ing in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments ev­ery day.”

The City will be im­ple­ment­ing a num­ber of projects in the near fu­ture that will in­cor­po­rate prin­ci­ples from the new down­town mas­ter plan, start­ing with the new streetscape de­sign out of the pat­tern book. The first area where this will be rolled out over the next year will be on Chap­lin Street be­tween Cen­tral Av­enue and First Av­enue NW.

The City has al­ready started work on the Cen­ten­nial Mar­ket District, which will be­come a fo­cal point in the down­town through im­prove­ments in the area around Mar­ket Square, the farm­ers mar­ket and Cen­ten­nial Plaza.

“We’re hope­ful that we’ll be able to start some of the im­prove­ments planned for that district over the next five to 10-year pe­riod,” he said. “We’ve al­ready been work­ing at the flag court with the Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Di­vi­sion on putting in some new plant­ing beds. We’ve got plans to in­stall a new gate­way sign for the new down­town core. So it will be a pretty im­pact­ful im­prove­ment even over the next year.”

Ruus be­lieves it is im­por­tant to con­tinue the process of en­gage­ment that started dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tion process for the down­town mas­ter plan.

“We need to be still en­gaged with the busi­nesses in the down­town core and the busi­nesses out­side of the down­town core as well,” he said. “They all play a part in what makes our ex­ist­ing down­town fan­tas­tic and the pro­gram­ming that we have avail­able. So re­ally that’s a pri­mary piece moving for­ward, but also part­ner­ing with our lo­cal Main Street board and some of the other in­ter­ested peo­ple in moving this plan for­ward. If we can do that and ex­plore other re­sources, then hope­fully we'll be able to en­cour­age busi­ness own­ers in the down­town to move for­ward with some of their projects that they’ve in most cases been dream­ing of for years.”

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