My Plan for Revitalizing Downtown

My Plan for Revitalizing Downtown

My Plan for Revitalizing Downtown

7 Comments on My Plan for Revitalizing Downtown

We’ve heard a lot of talk from candidates about “revitalizing the downtown core” and “making sure intensification is done right”. But without a solid plan, it’s all just talk.

Here’s my plan:

1) Identify the Problem

Milton is a town of well over 100,000 with a downtown designed for 20,000.  That traditional core cannot be developed much further because we need to preserve its heritage buildings and neighbourhoods, and because much of it is on the Sixteen Mile Creek flood plain.  The area also suffers by being isolated from the growing areas of town by a wasteland of industrial units, strip malls and empty lots.

Some candidates think that downtown Milton is doing just fine. To be sure, many businesses are thriving – particularly the many fine restaurants that have opened in recent years – but many are also struggling and going under. Perhaps more importantly, Main Street is lacking the sorts of businesses that serve neighbourhood residents and draw people downtown every day, resulting in a proliferation of big box developments on the outskirts of town and a downtown seniors population unable to access groceries or essential services.

2) Plan the Solution

In terms of population density, central Milton has become the hole in the doughnut. Businesses go where the customers are, and right now most of the customers are concentrated in a ring around us.

Milton’s Infill and Intensification plan will potentially remedy this situation by re-developing and building up the areas to the east and west of our traditional downtown core. The vision is of a continuous, vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown strip running the length of Main Street all the way from Bronte to Thompson Road.

This plan would concentrate residential, retail, and office growth in the centre of town instead of sprawling further outwards, and would draw customers towards our existing historic shopping district, making those businesses more viable for everyone. It will also make services such as transit more efficient, and encourage more facilities to locate downtown.

The problem is that, while the intensification plan presents a wonderful vision of Main Street business and residential development, there are no incentives or other mechanisms in place to make it happen.  There is no reason for existing property owners to invest in redevelopment, and nothing to prevent developers from building more strip malls, parking lots, and big box stores.

3) Make it Happen

The Planning Act provides a way to help municipalities take control and accomplish exactly the kind of redevelopment proposed in our intensification plan.

It’s called a Community Improvement Plan, or CIP.

Designating all of Milton’s Urban Growth Centre as a CIP Area would give the Town access to a wide range of tools and mechanisms such as tax increment financing, development charge deferments, area-specific development charges, bonusing options, and site plan controls that would allow us to actively encourage desirable types of development and to offer practical incentives for property owners to move ahead with redevelopment. Most of these would cost the town little or nothing, and would ultimately save us money by increasing service efficiencies.

It could mean the difference between this…

And this…

A CIP would also give us access to Federal and Provincial funding for things like ‘brownfield’ rehabilitation. In fact, if the old paint factory lot by the tracks had been part of a CIP, we might have had access to funding for the clean-up instead of having to pay for it all ourselves. Currently, there are properties along Bronte St. North that could use brownfield rehabilitation funding.

Having a CIP in place would also help us make our case to Halton Region to move ahead with added water and sewage service to the intensification area.

This idea is nothing new. The City of Hamilton has been using CIPs to revitalize many of their declining brownfield and industrial areas, as have many other towns and cities.  In fact, a consultant’s report presented to Milton Town Council three years ago recommended a CIP for precisely the reasons I have outlined here.

The recommendations were ignored and the idea of an expanded CIP was left out of our revised Official Plan.

As your councillor, I will work with staff and our new council to develop a Community Improvement Plan that will benefit existing businesses, create a walkable, ‘small town’ environment for Ward 2 residents, and provide a vibrant town centre for everyone in Milton.

Enough talk. It’s time for action.

(this post was updated from one originally published in October 2010)

7 Comments

  1. mcapper  - October 16, 2010 - 3:54 pm
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    Great post – Look, Plan, Do! I would only add one further step and that is monitor!

    I like particularly how you achieve it within the existing infill/intensification plan without the need for amendment to the Official Plan and all of the consequences that can bring.

    Martin Capper
    Candidate for Milton Town Council Ward 1
    http://www.cappercares.com

  2. a Future Ward2 Resident  - October 16, 2010 - 4:04 pm
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    Great proposal Jennifer. Milton has a section of downtown that can be described as nice but it has a long way to go before it can be widely regarded as a truly desireable destination.

    Having a strong, vibrant downtown core, full of retail and some high density residential, will also go a long way toward bringing residents of "new" Milton and "old" Milton together.

  3. Anonymous  - October 17, 2010 - 5:11 am
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    Great proposal Jennifer! My general impression from the town meetings on intensification is that the focus would need to be on getting sewer and water servicing from the region which is 10-15 years away but this provides a fantastic opportunity to get some things moving and supporting the redevelopment in the mean time.

    Kim Macdonald

  4. Eleanor Hayward  - October 23, 2010 - 11:07 pm
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    I have always enjoyed the idea of a safe and friendly work/live neighbourhoods, believing it offers incentives to cut down on timely stressful commutes and carbon pollution. I recognize your example building in the picture on the left of Holly Ave. here in town which I personally enjoy.

    Intensification seems a much more logical solution to greenfield development and pavement. I

  5. Lynne Moquin  - October 25, 2010 - 3:49 pm
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    It's election day and reading this I'd never heard that a CIP was not in place for Milton !
    Instead of voting for boo-hoo Milton is too big, I'll vote Jennifer Smith because more business, attractive storefront and signage (pleeeease get rid of the neon alphabet soup signs) and funky stores and living spaces are essential to a downtown !

    And why is "I've

  6. Lynne Moquin  - October 25, 2010 - 3:54 pm
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    And pardon, one more about downtown,
    IF Milton helps rebuild St.Paul's as a heritage site,
    can the hall THEN be shared with the community as an alternate ie. extra and more homey and cheaper, performance venue ?
    Mindful of separation of church and state as well as heritage – we are very glad to be in a free country respectful of, say, women's rights to work and stay alive,

  7. Jennifer Smith  - October 25, 2010 - 4:30 pm
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    Lynne – Thanks for the comments (and for your support!)

    Milton actually does have a small CIP designated just for the historic downtown area (about James to Martin), but they've never really done anything with it. There's really not much you can do down there except for a facade improvement program – and ours was cancelled two years ago!

    As for St. Paul's

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