Lot purchase pitched to BIA board

FORT FRANCES—The local Business Improvement Association will look into the possibility of buying and developing a downtown lot for parking and community events.
The proposal was brought forth by members of the downtown core committee at the BIA’s annual general meeting last Thursday at La Flambée.
Committee member Alan Tibbetts explained the lot of land where the Mid-Town Motel now sits is up for sale and that this would be an opportunity for the BIA to address one of the problems brought to light in the downtown committee report—the need for more parking spaces for the downtown area.
This site not only would be used for parking, providing at least another 100 spaces, but also for community events, whether they were outdoor concerts or the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market (the latter of which has expressed interest in coming downtown on Saturdays, noted Tibbetts).
Permanent stakes even could be installed to make it easy to erect a tent there for events, added Tibbetts.
Tibbetts said the site has many things going for it, including:
•it is for sale;
•it falls in the centre of the BIA zone;
•it is located near the newly-renovated museum;
•it ties into the heritage tourism project; and
•it can be seen from the international bridge.
Tibbetts proposed the BIA ask the Town of Fort Frances for a long-term loan of $300,000, as well as in-kind services (such as waste disposal).
The BIA also would submit funding applications to both FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., with the hope those two partners kick in another $300,000 each.
This money not only would be used to purchase the land but to buy signage, as well as beautify and market the lot and any events that may take place there.
BIA board member Dan Cousineau noted the board will have to run the idea by its members, considering the proposal involves a $300,000 loan that likely take would at least 10 years to pay off.
He also said the downtown core committee would have to come back to the BIA with some number and hard facts before it makes any final decisions.
The downtown core committee plans to bring this proposal before town council at its March 12 meeting, with Tibbetts indicating the town only will listen to them regarding this if the BIA shows some support for the concept.
While board members agreed Thursday to support the idea in principle and draft a letter of support saying so, they also agreed the matter had to be seriously discussed with the rest of the BIA membership.
BIA co-ordinator Patti Anderson noted if any BIA member wants to find out more about the proposal and offer their input, they should contact her at the BIA office (274-7502).
< *c>‘Main Street’
< *c>branding
The downtown core committee also asked BIA members to start using “The Great Canadian Main Street” slogan in their advertising and on BIA letterhead.
The slogan, which is clearly visible on the large signs erected last summer on the 100 block of Scott Street and near the water treatment plant in the east end of town, will be used in marketing materials being put out this year as well as on several FedNor-funded billboards in Minnesota.
Tibbetts urged local business use it, too, in order to promote the downtown area and “increase its visibility.”
“The more we use it, the more we brand the downtown,” he explained.
“It’s a downtown thing, but it can be wider than that,” Tibbetts stressed, adding this branding potentially could lead to an expansion of the BIA zone (which currently ranges from the 100-300 blocks of Scott Street).
“If we make the brand something people like, they may want to buy into it,” he reasoned.
“I think we have to grab that marketing plan and run with it,” said BIA member Doug Anderson, who, along with Connie Cuthbertson, was instrumental in getting BIA members to support the “Great Canadian Main Street” sign project last summer.
“We’re going to have a jewel of a museum we don’t want to be surrounded by nothing,” echoed Cuthbertson. “We’re on the ‘Great Canadian Main Street.’ Let’s make it great.”
The downtown core committee will continue to ask for input from the BIA on how to market the “Great Canadian Main Street” image.
< *c>Tourism project
Also Thursday, the BIA board received a presentation from museum curator Pam Hawley, who informed them renovations at the museum are complete and that Phase Two of the heritage tourism project is poised to begin.
Anderson noted BIA members should take a look at some of the banner designs being considered as part of the heritage tourism project and voice their opinions as to what they’d like to see.
The banners have slogans on them such as “Where The Past is Present,” “Take A Walk Through Time,” and “This Is A Great Canadian Main Street.”
Beyond the physical enhancements, Hawley noted some of the funding allotted for Phase Two of the heritage tourism project will be used in a marketing plan to promote the town as a tourist destination.

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