Many Groups Working to Help Downtown
In order to effectively revitalize downtown we need to create a positive, unforgettable downtown experience. To achieve this, we know we need to address the real and/or perceived notion that Downtown is messy and feels unsafe.
Since the adoption of the Heart of Our City Master Plan in 2007, creating a clean and safe downtown has been a fundamental goal of downtown revitalization. These efforts have seen a number of initiatives implemented such as the Clean Sweep Program, Diversion Outreach Team, Downtown Ambassadors, expansion of Lethbridge Police Services’ downtown presence, and private security in Galt Gardens, to name a few.
Between 2007 and 2016, by focusing on decreasing negative cues and increasing positive cues the downtown experienced a noticeable improvement in terms of cleanliness and safety. Unfortunately, over the past two years the downtown has faced escalating instances of drug use, theft, erratic behavior, and petty crime related to increases in unemployment, homelessness, and addiction and substance abuse. Every incident, inappropriate act, or negative cue that one observes or is exposed to, regardless of how serious, is extremely impactful to people’s perception of cleanliness and safety in the downtown.
To combat these negative perceptions and the City of Lethbridge has been listening and collaborating with various stakeholders in and around the downtown including the Heart of Our City Committee, Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone, Chamber of Commerce, Lethbridge Police Service, Fire & Ambulance, Diversion Outreach Team, Social Service Agencies, and businesses and residents to develop a city-led Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy (DCSS).
The strategy combines components of enforcement, security, outreach, cleaning, promotion, education, and built environment improvements to holistically address the negative perceptions and to make the community feel safe, promote positive downtown activities and events, and inform residents on what the City is doing that builds understanding for the purpose of increasing the vibrancy and revitalization of the downtown. The details of the strategy can be viewed at www.lethbridge.ca/downtown.
This is not a strategy to attempt to solve the larger underlying issues of the drug crisis such as homelessness, addiction and unemployment. It is a holistic effort to bridge a gap and assist those in the downtown and adjacent areas whose livelihoods are being directly impacted, while the plan to address the larger underlying issues is being developed and implemented through the Community Drug Strategy (www.lethbridge.ca/drugstrategy).
By investing resources into reestablishing a clean and safe downtown, we will be better positioned to continue with our downtown revitalization efforts to create a positive, unforgettable downtown experience based on welcoming public spaces, program and events, vibrant uses, and marketing and promotions.
I challenge every resident to help Our Downtown to be the best it can be. With our partners on the Downtown BRZ and the Heart of Our City Committee, we encourage you to contribute to the content of this column and the BRZ’s #OurDowntown video series with your comments, questions, ideas, and suggestions by engaging with us on Twitter (@DowntownLeth) using the hashtag #ourdowntown and at www.getinvolvedlethbridge.ca/ourdowntown.