Petitioners ask to re-allocate downtown revitalization funds to 500 block of 7th Avenue

By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

A group of more than a dozen business owners petitioned Invermere council to include the part of 7th Avenue (Invermere’s main street) where their businesses are located in the district’s current downtown revitalization efforts.

The district’s downtown revitalization – almost all of which has been paid for through grant money — began roughly a decade ago, with upgrades at Pothole Park and along 7th Avenue between Pothole Park and the intersection of 7th Avenue and 9th Street (often referred to as ‘the AG intersection’, after the AG Valley Foods store located on the corner there), then continued a few years later with the revamp of the Cenotaph Plaza. The next phase of revitalization, costing $1.2 million, was announced by the district a few weeks ago, and will see the same sidewalk improvements, street trees, lights and other features of 7th Avenue between Pothole Park and the AG intersection, ‘stretched’ south from the AG intersection to the Cenotaph Plaza (which is at the intersection of 7th Avenue and 12 Street, roughly halfway down Invermere’s main street).

At least 15 business and commercial property owners in the 500 block of 7th Avenue, however, sent council a petition pointing out that the downtown revitalization appears to have, in some respects, left out their part of the main street. The 500 block is the strip of commercial buildings running south along 7th Avenue from the four-way stoplight at 4th Street (by Sobey’s) to Pothole Park, and although the downtown revitalization efforts began immediately south of the 500 block (at Pothole) years ago, these improvements have since only run further south.

“While we are happy to hear the news of the 1.2 million dollars in funding that has recently been secured for lnvermere’s downtown revitalization, we have concerns about the allocation of those monies. We are wondering why the 500 block of 7th Avenue is not included in this plan?,” read the petition, adding “it would seem logical that the ‘entrance’ to downtown Invermere should start at the lights on 4th Street. Sobeys and the beautiful Columbia Valley Centre/(Invermere Public) Library are integral to our community, yet appear to remain somewhat disconnected from your downtown revitalization plans. Why is this?”

The business owners and operators behind the petition asked that the district consider extending the proposed revitalization to include the block on 7th Ave between Pothole Park and the Sobey’s/Columbia Valley Centre corner. “Perhaps part of the plan could be to remove the meridian on 7th Avenue, freeing up more desperately needed angle parking spaces in that area? We continue to be concerned about the lack of adequate parking in the area, which we fear will be compounded by the new housing development currently under construction nearby,” continued the petition, later adding that “our businesses, our community members and our visitors all stand to benefit from your decision, so please get it right and do what’s best for our town.”

The petition was received and discussed by Invermere council, during its Tuesday, May 11 meeting (as well as at its committee of the whole meeting earlier the same day). Council members noted in their discussion that plans are in the works for turning the 4th Street-7th Avenue intersection into a roundabout, and that it makes the most sense, both financially and in terms of minimizing overall disruption, to do the revitalization work along the 500 block of 7th Avenue at that time. They also noted that the current phase of downtown revitalization (AG intersection to Cenotaph Plaza) has been planned out for some years, and that switching it at this point to a different area (the 500 block) also does not necessarily make sense.

“This revitalization (AG to Cenotaph) has been in the works for some time now. We’ve been planning and working on this one, as well as we’ve also had a plan for the Sobey’s area and that part of the retail area, in the shape of a traffic circle. A lot of work would need to be done in that area as well,” said Invermere mayor Al Miller. “We haven’t received any grant money (for the traffic circle and nearby areas) as yet. We haven’t been successful in that yet. But that project is ready. Our thought process is not to do something just for it to get disturbed again.”

Miller went on to outline that just because the traffic circle and revitalization of nearby areas were not happening right away doesn’t mean that council doesn’t consider that part of town important.

“We want to have a nice entrance to the town. We’ve taken in this petition, we’ve read it, we accept it. We understand full well the need to start at that end and come forward, but at the same time we don’t want to be doing work twice,” said Miller. “We’re well into this project (AG to Cenotaph revitalization). We’re going to proceed with the downtown revitalization (as planned), and at some point, hopefully we’ll secure the proper granting, so we can move forward with the traffic circle and the work that will start at (the 7th Avenue-4th Street intersection)…We fully understand the concern and will be trying to serve well in the future that area.”