The Quesnel Downtown Association (QDA)’s Business Improvement Area (BIA) Bylaw is up for renewal in 2021, and with all the uncertainty stirred up by COVID-19, the QDA board of directors has put forth a short-term renewal package to cover the next two years.
This has been a year of big changes and challenges for everyone, the association noted in a letter to council.
“As well as dealing with pandemic lockdowns and cancellations of our events, the Downtown Association has undergone a rebranding, including new logo, colours and messaging,” the letter states. “This has made us rethink the way we do business and market ourselves. There have been many new ideas for events and marketing strategies that will affect our future budgets. The desire is to market the downtown to our residents as a place to go for everything they need, as well as to market outside Quesnel and promote us as a great destination for a unique shopping experience.”
The BIA bylaw previously covered seven years, but the QDA felt a shorter term made more sense because there is so much uncertainty right now.
Two new initiatives for the QDA include Alive After 5 at Spirit Square and an expanded Downtown Art Walk.
“The scope and budgeting of these two events (and other new and existing events) is difficult to map out considering the current situation,” the QDA writes in the letter. “Therefore, the next two years will act as a pilot and framework for delivering compelling events which draw residents and visitors safely to our downtown.”
In presenting the QDA’s strategic plan and requesting the bylaw renewal at the Nov. 17 council meeting, QDA president Mike Briggs said their plan right now is to go with the revitalization of Spirit Square and having live entertainment every Tuesday night, along with hopefully some food vendors, to try to draw Rocky Mountaineer train passengers and local residents downtown.
“We have secured funding for that from the Northern Development Initiative Trust for the first year to pay for the entertainment, but after that, we don’t have the funding,” said Briggs. “We don’t know exactly how much that is going to cost, so we didn’t want to propose an increase to our bylaw without having something to back it up.”
The QDA also plans to expand the Downtown Art Walk, which was a new event this year, and make it into a larger event going forward.
During the next two years, the QDA will analyze its new marketing and events while navigating the challenges posed by COVID-19.
“In two years’ time, we feel we will be better prepared to come to council with a compelling strategic plan based on the experiences learned,” according to the QDA.
While renewing its bylaw, the QDA is requesting minor changes to its BIA boundary to include several property owners outside the existing boundary. This proposed expansion includes the north side of Sheppard Avenue between Kinchant and Reid streets, the west side of Vaughan Street between St. Laurent and Barlow avenues, and the south side of the Moffat Bridge Approach.
“There are a couple of businesses in those areas that feel they can have both input for the betterment of the downtown association and are a good fit as well,” said QDA director Gilbert Schotel.
Coun. Mitch Vik felt the proposed boundary expansion was a good move.
“I think it speaks to the health of the organization that people would like to be included, so I really appreciate your efforts with that,” he said.
Schotel presented more information to council about the association’s rebranding.
“We found the downtown association needed to renew our brand,” he said. “Our brand was ‘a downtown that makes people proud.’ I think a lot of us around here, our downtown does make us proud, but as our demographics change and who we want to attract changes, we realize the new people who are going to drive the economy, they don’t have that emotional connection that a lot of us sitting around here do have who have been around here since the 1970s and even previous to that.”
The QDA’s new tagline is “Walk! Talk! Shop!”
“We’re highlighting the people, we’re highlighting the quality; you can walk around, you can shop, you can meet people,” said Schotel.
The QDA’s new logo features the river, the Fraser River Footbridge and has broken down the “Downtown” to the abbreviation and hashtag “DWTN” and “Q”.
“We also came up with new colours,” said Schotel. “It’s not an accident that these colours also recall closely to complement the city’s branding because we appreciate the work the city has done, both locally and in the province and internationally, so it only makes sense that we work with the city and we provide a brand that complements the city’s brand, where it becomes ‘it’s in our nature to walk, talk and shop’ so we can work in the same areas.”
Coun. Scott Elliott thanked the QDA for its work on the rebranding.
”I’m really glad you’re kind of piggy-backing on that as far as the colours and things,” he said. “Us working together is only going to be more helpful.”
Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg liked the idea of the two-year term.
“It’s always great to see how BIAs are evolving, and the two-year renewal piece, that’s a really unique solution to the current situation, and I think that’s really forward-thinking of your executive, to understand that your businesses don’t necessarily want to take that extra hit of a tax levy right now, and I think they will appreciate that over the next couple of years,” she said. “A lot of BIAs are struggling right now with how they’re going to bring people to their events, because a lot of what brings people to your core is your events, so recognizing that, I look forward to seeing how things unfold over the next couple of years with all of our BIAs, and especially the downtown core because you guys have put a lot of time and effort into creating an atmosphere where people want to come back and visit again, so thank you for that.”
Council approved the QDA’s strategic plan and budget at its Nov. 24 meeting and directed staff to proceed with preparing the BIA bylaw for the amount of $68,000 in 2021 and $69,000 in 2022, on a council initiatives process subject to petition against.
The funding for a BIA is collected through a local service area tax, applied only to the businesses in the area. The city pays for the mailouts that go to the businesses as part of the petition process.