The Uptown Rutland business community has a long wish list of improvements it would like to see in their town centre, but none are gaining much traction with the council or mayoral candidates.
Deb Guthrie, executive director of the Uptown Rutland Business Association, says the downtown core has dominated the political debate thus far.
“We recognize the importance people put to the downtown core, but it’s one of three commercial centres identified in Kelowna, and one of them badly needs work,” said Guthrie, alluding to Rutland’s needs.
“We can see now what the revitalization work started a decade ago is helping the Pandosy district to grow. We need to see that happen (in Rutland) as well. We haven’t seen much change here since the 1970s.”
Guthrie says is laying the groundwork for a building facade program that URBA is working on in conjunction with city hall to develop a business plan for inclusion in the 2013 city budget.
“As much as we like the tax incentive revitalization concept the city is advocating, it doesn’t work for a lot of buildings in Rutland unless you tear them down for new ones and add square footage, and quite a few building owners aren’t in a position to do that,” Guthrie said.
“So we feel the facade program is another way to help revitalize our area.”
URBA also suffered a setback, she said, when the Shepherd Road transit station proposal was put on the backburner.
“The Shepherd Road extension is very important to us. We are told now something will come forward in the spring of 2012 between the city and regional transit. But the funding to do anything drys up in 2013, so it’s critical we get this done,” Guthrie said.
She said the Shepherd Road station can lead to improvements to Roxby Park that borders on Highway 33, which city hall has put on hold pending approval of a final plan for the Shepherd bus loop.
“Everything has kind of stopped because the transit development hasn’t happened. Whatever happens with Roxby Park has to tie in with the transit development.”
Guthrie said URBA members have many issues with Highway 33, from snow removal to sidewalk improvements, but realize that because it is a provincial highway, it is the highways ministry that must be lobbied for those changes.
“We understand that Highway 33 is just that, a highway, but we’d like to see some beautification projects happen along that corridor, and to see it be more pedestrian friendly for local businesses,” Guthrie noted.
Speaking of business, Guthrie said URBA advocates for more business-minded people to be sitting around the council table. “I know that concern is out there from other people, but we feel the pendulum may have swung too far away the business community in recent years,” Guthrie noted.
She cited the example of the John Howard Society facility on Rutland Road North, which took away parking spaces for nearby businesses to accommodate the new building, currently under construction.
“We would have liked to see some retail or office space component included on the ground floor, but that was something neither the city or John Howard people wanted to get involved in.
“And the loss of parking spaces resulted in two businesses having to move elsewhere.”