AMHERST - Amherst is about to get serious with revitalizing its downtown core.
The town is considering a closer working relationship with the Cumberland Regional Economic Development Association and the Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society to look for ways to attract new businesses and people to the downtown.
"Basically we are looking at putting our minds together and coming up with what I call a downtown site development plan," CREDA's executive director Rhonda Kelly said Wednesday. "It would look at everything from downtown parking, to traffic circulation through to building usage and architectural guidelines and beyond."
Kelly appeared before town council's committee-of-the-whole meeting earlier this week to brief council on some of the activities already underway and to talk about some of the options that could be considered.
Downtown revitalization was identified in January as one of the town's seven priorities for the coming year.
The question of how to improve the downtown is not a new one and it's an issue that came up several times during last fall's municipal election campaign with voters asking the candidates what they plan to do to bring people back to the downtown.
In 2007, Daniel Allain from Downtown Moncton-Centre Ville Inc. suggested the Moncton Miracle can be repeated here if all the segments of the community work together to develop a vision. That could be an option for Amherst.
"We want to do everything we can to explore every opportunity to work collaboratively to strengthen and enhance the downtown core as a key attraction piece and a viable entity," she said. "We'll be looking at image enhancement and creating that climate that conducive to business and visitors."
Beth Munroe, who operates Pugsley's Pharmacy and Mrs. Pugsley's Emporium, is welcoming the potential opportunity to work with the town and CREDA towards a common goal.
"We need the help of the town and the help of CREDA and we all need to be moving forward and looking at the possibilities, not just for today, but for future enhancements and strategic planning," said Munroe, who is the chair of DARS.
She said DARS is looking for a strategy that has a vision of what the downtown may look like 20 years from now while addressing present concerns as well.
Kelly cautioned there will be challenges, but it's very important that it's done and she applauded the town for setting that as a priority.
"When you're looking for new businesses and new people to come live in your community you have to be fairly competitive. The Town of Amherst does have a lot going for it in setting out its strategic priorities. They have some
great infrastructure in great schools, a new hospital and a variety of types of residential neighbourhoods," Kelly said. "Where they hope to go with the Arts, Culture and Heritage priority is also key. It is this type of activity which can set one community apart from the others - particularly in a global context."