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  • Transforming Boring Building Exteriors Into Creative Community Canvases

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    Are you a Lethbridge building-owner looking to brighten up an exterior wall?

    Are you a local artist seeking an opportunity to share your skills and talents with your community?

    The City of Lethbridge Public Art Committee, Heart of Our City Committee, and Allied Arts Council are seeking artists and building owners to participate in a mural pilot project. This pilot enables local artists and businesses to partner to create vibrant and accessible public artwork for the community to enjoy. Funding is provided by the City of Lethbridge Public Art Program and Heart of Our City Committee.

    A mural is an artwork painted or applied directly to a wall. Murals have the power to transform boring building exteriors into creative community canvases. They help add vibrancy by activating public spaces, promoting creative expression, and deterring graffiti vandalism.

    An Expression of Interest (EOI) must be submitted to seek participation in this pilot project. EOIs are due September 14, 2020. The application process for this project is competitive. A maximum of ten murals will be funded, at least half of which must be located in the downtown.

    Mural designs will reflect at least one of the guiding principles outlined in the City’s Public Art Master Plan: inclusivity, diversity, accessibility, creativity, sustainability, and quality. If the mural is located in the downtown, it will also celebrate at least one of the pillars of the Heart of Our City Master Plan: beautiful, livable, sustainable, exciting, accessible, and vibrant.

    The mural’s intention must be artistic and cannot include promotional or commercial content.

    Download the full call for EOIs at https://www.publicartlethbridge.ca/current-calls/.

    Image: Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association’s Back Alley Art Gallery Project.

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  • Taking It To The Streets In Support of Economic Recovery

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    In an effort to support businesses in their COVID-19 relaunch efforts, the City of Lethbridge will be expediting permitting for the use of sidewalks and streets to create outdoor patios, parklets and street vending in commercial areas. Opportunities for expanded outdoor seating will be vital in allowing businesses to serve customers while still following provincial health orders and ensuring physical distancing.

    For businesses in Downtown Lethbridge, the Heart of Our City Committee has developed an Outdoor Patio and Parklet Support Program. This includes a limited quantity of prefabricated parklet structures, planters, bistro tables and chairs that businesses can borrow. Further, the existing Main Street Incentive Program has been expanded beyond façade and signage improvements to include patio and parklet improvements. This expanded program will provide matching funding to businesses to assist with initial costs of developing their own patio or parklet.

    A parklet is a temporary seating area that replaces one or two parking spaces by extending from the sidewalk in front of the business and into the street. Parklets were first introduced in 2005 in San Francisco and today are a mainstay in communities small and large, from Fernie, BC to New York, NY. The City piloted parklets in 2019 with great success. This year’s program has been modified slightly to incorporate changes suggested through community feedback.

    A comprehensive handbook has also been created for anyone interested in exploring a patio/parklet options for their business. This resource includes operational and safety requirements, application form, and details on the review process. For more information visit: www.lethbridge.ca/publicspaces.

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  • Downtown Lethbridge introduces Heart of the Holidays

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    Lethbridge, AB – Downtown is the heart of our city and this year, in support of the many great small businesses that call downtown home, it is also the heart of the holidays. Starting November 15, visitors will enjoy five weeks of events and activities including outdoor skating and business promotions highlighting the originality of downtown Lethbridge.

    Heart of the Holidays will replace the one-day Bright Lights Festival which has been a downtown holiday tradition for the last 18 years. By spreading events out over a longer period of time and providing more variety, this new holiday tradition hopes to attract more people to the downtown core.

    “The Bright Lights Festival has been great but it was just one night and it was very dependent on weather, says Ted Stilson, Executive Director of the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone. “Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens now has an amazing lights display for residents to enjoy so it was time to look at something different for the downtown. By switching things up and introducing a new event, we hope everyone will find something that will bring them downtown this holiday season.”

    Skating in festival square will be one of the main attractions as part of the Heart of the Holidays event. Festival square (the small parking area on 6St. S.) will be transformed into a skating rink for the week of November 15 - 24 and December 7 - 14. The Downtown BRZ, The Heart of our City Committee and Lethbridge Sports Council have partnered to bring the outdoor skating rink to the downtown. There will be synthetic ice (see attached photo) installed and maintained for the public to skate on free of charge. There will also be additional lighting and seating provided as well as treats for skaters to enjoy.

    “Over the years, something we’ve continually heard through community engagement is that residents would enjoy a place to go outdoor skating,” says Andrew Malcolm, City of Lethbridge Urban Revitalization Manager. “Our Lethbridge chinooks have always been a concern in maintaining ice but by having a synthetic ice surface, which we’ve borrowed from Lethbridge Sport Council, we now have a solution. We are really excited to offer this new opportunity for friends and family to meet downtown and enjoy skating together this holiday season.”

    Over the next several weeks, Heart of the Holidays will also introduce:

    • Selfies with Santa – find Santa downtown and take a selfie for a chance to win great prizes.

    • Downtown Holiday Market – November 23 at Casa. Shop local at this special market showcasing downtown Lethbridge businesses.

    • Plaid Days - Dec 6 & 7
      Shop local this holiday season and enjoy great deals from unique businesses. Catch a ride on a horse-drawn carriage while sipping hot chocolate then hop off for a skate at festival square.

    For more information on all of the exciting events happening for the year’s Heart of the Holidays in downtown Lethbridge visit: www.downtownlethbridge.com.
  • Parklet Program Pilot Launches Downtown - Feedback wanted!

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    If you’re looking for a nice place to enjoy some summer shade, look no further than downtown Lethbridge. The City of Lethbridge, in partnership with the Heart of our City committee, is piloting a new project to provide outdoor seating spaces for downtown businesses in the form of a Parklet.

    A Parklet is a temporary seating area that replaces one or two parking spaces by extending from the sidewalk in front of the business into the street. Parklets were first introduced in 2005 in San Francisco and today are a mainstay in communities small and large, from Fernie, BC to New York, New York.

    More people and more activity creates a more vibrant downtown. Parklets help foster a sense of community by creating places for people to sit, relax, visit and enjoy the city. By converting parking space to people space, Parklets make cities more welcoming and people-friendly. They support local businesses by create a sense of place, beautify the streets and make walkable destinations for residents.

    The pilot program offers two forms of support for businesses interested in establishing a Parklet in front of their business. The first option is financial support for the design and construction of a Parklet including a matching grant up to $1,000. The second option is to borrow the City owned Parklet infrastructure at no cost to the business. With either option, the pilot program will also cover the $300 fee for a Parklet permit.

    As a pilot, the Heart of Our City committee will be gathering community feedback from businesses, customers and clients to determine if this is something that could become a more permanent fixture in downtown Lethbridge in years to come.

    For more information on this and other projects to enhance public spaces in the downtown visit www.lethbridge.ca/publicspaces.

    Residents can give feedback on the Parklet pilot project here.

    To inquire about piloting a Parklet at your downtown location contact Andrew Malcolm, Urban Revitalization Manager at 403-320-3926.


  • Options Exist For Downtown Business Beautification

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    Never underestimate the power of a well-designed storefront. Aside from word-of-mouth recommendations shoppers typically only have curb appeal to help them determine whether or not a business is worth visiting. And a customer’s first impression of a business’s brand can often be the difference between someone coming in or walking past. When competing with the big-box retailers, chains, and franchises that have very identifiable branding, smaller local businesses must turn on the charm by creating storefronts that are welcoming to visitors and quickly tell them what goods and services are provided.

    Despite the fact that storefront beautification projects that improve curb appeal can count for 70 per cent of new visitor sales at restaurants, retail shops, and hotels and lodging establishments, it is often difficult for small businesses to front the capital costs to pull off such improvements.

    Cue Community Futures, a community driven, non-profit organization that is actively engaged in providing a wide range of small business services and business management tools for people who want to start, expand, or improve a business.

    In 2011, Community Futures partnered with the Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone and Heart of Our City to provide the Business Improvement Loan program to provide financial assistance to businesses in the downtown. The program provides interest-free loans up to a maximum of $15,000 for downtown businesses to improve the appearance of their business, with the interest being paid by the Heart of Our City.

    Eligible improvements include signage, exterior finishes, repair or replacement of storefront windows and doors, interior and exterior lighting, window display areas, new architectural features, addition of patio areas and landscaping, flooring and much more!

    Since 2011, 87 loans have been issued which have directly resulted in maintaining and creating more than 320 full- and part-time jobs as well as being leveraged to facilitate more than $1.6 million in improvements in our Downtown.

    “This program is a win-win, as small business and entrepreneurs receive valuable assistance while also contributing to making our downtown more beautiful and sustainable” says Darlene Sinclair, General Manager of Community Futures Lethbridge Region.

    More information on the Business Improvement Loan program and other small business services and business management tools that Community Futures provides can be found at www.lethbridgeregion.albertacf.com or by contacting 403-320-6044.

    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.

    *This column was published in the Lethbridge Herald on November 19, 2018

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  • Support Downtown, Shop Local

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    “When you buy from a small business, you’re not helping a CEO buy his 3rd home. You’re helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy his team jersey, moms and dads put food on the table. Shop Local”.

    This quote was from a social media post by Dylan’s Burger and Deli, located in our Downtown at 313-5 Street South. This was supplemented with the message “We would not be here without the support of our community. Come downtown and see us. We are here and ready to go. Our downtown needs more support than ever”.

    Downtown has been feeling the impacts related to increasing drug use, homelessness, and the overall perception of safety. Consultation is underway aimed at developing a Community Drug Strategy that can be implemented as soon as possible, with the findings of phase 1 being reported to Council today.

    In the words of local business owner Hunter Heggie, “Lethbridge’s heart is stressed but it isn’t broken. This is our city. Come shop, eat, and use the services in our Downtown”. Whether it’s a hard-to-find vinyl record, a stunning outfit, delicious candy, or the latest in baby merchandise – you can find it right here at home in our Downtown. The viability of our great downtown businesses depends on people continuing to patronize the Downtown – especially during the holiday shopping season (Yes, it’s that time of year, already!)

    There are many community benefits to shopping local, including stimulating the local economy, creating high quality jobs, increasing local investment, creating unique local character, offering superior customer service, fostering cultural diversity, increasing support for community groups, events and charities, and creating vibrancy at the street level which deters negative behaviors.

    Did you know that when you shop at a local business, 70 cents for every dollar spent stays in the local economy, compared to 30 cents with a larger chain store, and less than one cent when buying from an online mega-retailer.

    Mom-and-pop stores have helped shape the identity of downtown as the Heart of Our City for more than 100 years. This holiday season, we invite the residents of Lethbridge to come together and come Downtown to shop local. And by doing so, you’ll be keeping your locally owned and operated businesses and surrounding community healthy, prosperous and vibrant.

    Also be sure to check out the 18th Annual Bright Lights Festival which will kick off the holiday shopping season in Downtown Lethbridge on November 16th in Galt Gardens. Also be sure to check out Christmas at Casa on November 16th and 17th which will feature more than 100 artists and guilds selling one-of-a-kind artisanal wares and artwork. And don’t miss the Galt’s Night at the Museum Shopping event on November 29th.

    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 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.


    *This column was published in the Lethbridge Herald on November 5, 2018.

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  • BRZ Believes in Downtown Vision

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    A Business Revitalization Zone is a special assessment district established by businesses in an area to jointly raise and administer funds through a designated levy (tax) for various projects and promotional activities within the zone throughout the year that contribute to improving the economic and social vitality of the area.

    The Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) was established in 1987. It is a visionary collective of business leaders who believe that the heart of the city beats in its center core. Since inception, the BRZ has succeeded in adding the necessary vibrancy to make that heart beat with a strong and steady pulse.

    The BRZ serves its members through marketing and implementation of unique programs that promote and highlight the positive aspects of our downtown and by providing public advocacy on important issues affecting the downtown core. Through a close partnership with the City of Lethbridge, the BRZ also administers several key programs on behalf of the City of Lethbridge’s Heart of Our City committee including beautification loans and grants, marketing, public relations, and street maintenance initiatives.

    In large part due to the tireless work of the BRZ, our Downtown is an ideal business environment in a premium centralized location with a unique mix of retailers, restaurants, coffee shops, and professional services. This is abundantly evident as over the past few months a handful of new and innovative businesses have opened their doors in our Downtown including: Hive – a creative co-working space, London Road Media – a modern marketing and advertising strategy company, Mortar and Bricks – a premiere gallery and event space, and Pure Spa – a health-oriented spa destination.

    To learn more about these new businesses and others in our Downtown be sure to check out the BRZ website (www.downtownlethbridge.ca) and social media accounts (@DowntownLeth) as a new video series titled #OurDowntown will highlight the stories behind new businesses in our Downtown. The first video is posted today and features Pure Spa owners Rachel and Jayna who share why they decided to bring holistic healing to Downtown Lethbridge.(click here for video)

    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 with us on Twitter (@DowntownLeth) using the hashtag #ourdowntownwith you oncomments, questions, ideas, and suggestions .

    *This column was published on October , 2018


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  • State of a Downtown Speaks Volumes About a City

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    Think of any city you’ve come to love. Whether it’s world renowned, a centuries-old classic or comparatively new and contemporary, every one of them has a vibrant place at its core – Downtown.

    Downtowns are iconic and powerful symbols for cities. They often feature the most recognizable landmarks, distinctive businesses, vibrant streets and diverse people. Given that downtowns are typically among the oldest neighbourhoods in most cities, they offer insights into their cities’ past, present, and future; while giving you a sense of a city’s personality.

    A city’s downtown has an important and unique role in economic and social development. Downtowns create a critical mass of activities where commercial, cultural, and civic activities are concentrated. This concentration facilitates business, learning, and cultural exchange. They are also often the hotbed of business creativity, neighbourhood activism, non-profit enterprise and economic diversity as well as a destination for visitors, seniors, and young talent.

    Revitalization of downtown areas can be extremely challenging for a variety of reasons including but not limited to: balancing the needs of diverse uses and users unlike any other area in the city, making considerations for the car in an area primarily developed prior to the car-dominated culture of today, competing with development on the edge of the city where development opportunities are basically a clear canvas, and addressing areas that may be neglected, struggling, or contentious. The challenging process of downtown revitalization is continual and never complete – but it is always exciting and extremely rewarding.

    Over the past two decades, with the guidance of the Heart of Our City Master Plan, much work has been accomplished to revitalize and strengthen Downtown as the symbolic and historic heart of Lethbridge. These successes are largely a result of the ongoing process of revitalization which incorporates projects, initiatives, incentives, and events hosted or supported by the City of Lethbridge, the Heart of Our City Committee, the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ), and the efforts of countless individuals who frequent and support the Downtown on a day-to-day basis.

    Today, Downtown Lethbridge is a vibrant place distinguished by its rich past that is evident in architecture, streets, parks, and landmarks, which also reflect the community values that are unique to Lethbridge as a whole. Downtown is thus both a source and an expression of community identity and pride.

    This new bi-weekly column will highlight some of the efforts going on behind the scenes to ensure that our Downtown remains a central gathering place where all Lethbridge residents have the opportunity to live, work, shop, play, dream, and connect.

    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 with us on Twitter (@DowntownLeth) using the hashtag #ourdowntown with you on comments, questions, ideas, and suggestions.

    *This column was published August 27, 2018 in the Lethbridge Herald.


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