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  • Downtown Revitalization Bolstered With New Clean and Safe Initiatives & Funding

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    Efforts to continue revitalizing the downtown have been given a boost in confidence from City Council today.

    Voting in favour of funding the Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy (DCSS) until 2022, Councillor Jeff Carlson says this will continue to aid in creating a positive downtown experience for residents, businesses and visitors alike and is an important step in maintaining a vibrant city.

    “The work that everyone involved in the strategy has done will now continue, and will help our community see that our downtown is still a great place to live, work and play,” says Carlson. “We want to build on this work and to continue providing services that benefit our businesses, residents and the city as a whole. I cannot express enough thanks to those members of our community who participated, and their dedication to the Heart of our City.”

    Local business owner and Downtown BRZ board member Hunter Heggie, says bolstering the efforts in addressing the perceptions of downtown will go a long way with business owners and gives him confidence moving into the next few years of business.

    “In making this decision today, City Council has shown they stand behind our businesses and they support what we do,” says Heggie. “The programs that address the safety of downtown do so much to boost the confidence of not just the businesses but those who visit and shop and take in all our downtown has to offer. The downtown business community are a resilient and hardy group and with this positive step forward it just goes to show that when we come together as a community, great things can happen and I thank City Council for showing their support in this way today.”

    Building on the existing initiatives of the DCSS which included the implementation of the Clean Sweep Program and the Diversion Outreach Team, the updated strategy looks to add a number of new initiatives including exploring a different approach to security and outreach in Galt Gardens. .

    “We know downtown is a wonderful place for our residents, businesses and visitors to experience the best our city has to offer,” said Spearman. “Continuing and expanding on the good work the clean and safe strategy has done to date shows we have confidence in our downtown and we support the businesses and people come to experience our city’s centre.”

    City Council voted to fund the proposed strategy for a total of just over $1.6 million. The funding is spread across three years and is being applied to 20 initiatives that focus specifically on creating a safe, clean and welcoming environment in the downtown.

    www.lethbridge.ca/downtowncleanandsafe

  • Many Groups Working to Help Downtown

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    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.



  • Clean Sweep Program is Paying Dividends

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    Places that are well maintained and clean not only raise property values and lower vacancy rates but they also create an inviting environment where people want to stop and spend time. It makes the statement that someone cares for this place, they are taking care of it and there is a sense of pride. This is very much the case in Downtown Lethbridge and it’s largely due to the efforts of the Clean Sweep Program who maintain a clean downtown for all to enjoy.

    The Downtown Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) manages the very impactful Clean Sweep Program (CSP) which is a joint initiative between the BRZ, Social Housing in Action and the Heart of Our City Committee. The program seeks to make a positive contribution to Downtown Lethbridge, specifically related to maintaining a clean public space. The program provides individuals who are experiencing various levels of homelessness with the opportunity to participate in meaningful daily activities. This work goes a long way in helping build employment and financial literacy skills and supporting social inclusion while making a positive contribution to the community.

    CSP clients receive a small stipend, training, clothing and a bagged lunch, courtesy of Canadian Mental Health and local businesses to perform a variety of tasks within the downtown early in the morning Monday to Friday. Their primary role is to clean streets/lanes in the summer, pick up leaves in the fall and clear snow from the public areas during the winter months while also offering pressure washing services and graffiti removal for private businesses in the downtown. With a combined effort between the CSP and the City’s graffiti removal program, you will be hard-pressed to find graffiti or tags in the downtown, and if you do, make sure to call the BRZ office and they will deploy CSP as soon as possible!

    The role of CSP became even more prominent in 2018 for several reasons. First, they are now playing a critical role in addressing a major community issue as needle debris collection was added to their tasks and has expanded outside the downtown to provide service to the area around the supervised consumption site and other hotspots. Secondly, a partnership with the City’s Waste and Recycling Department saw CSP participate in a new leaf collection and composting initiative in the downtown. As a result, nearly 2,000 brown bags of leaves were diverted from the landfill this fall. In recognition of this, CSP was recently awarded the ‘Green Superhero Organization’ award from Environment Lethbridge. Finally, Lowe’s provided the CSP a Lowe’s Heroes grant for just under $6,000 in addition to staff skills and labor, which will go towards much needed upgrades to the sheds used for coffee/gathering space as well as equipment storage.

    The CSP will be evolving their programs with the launch of ‘The Pallet Design Company’, which will see CSP clients employed in the design and construction of furniture and goods out of recycled pallets. This program will provide the next step in the employment spectrum assisting those with the transition to part-time or full-time employment. More information on this program will be shared in 2019.

    Maintaining a clean environment is a cornerstone for the successful revitalization of downtown and the CSP is playing a critical role in helping achieve that. If you happen to be in the downtown before 8 a.m., be sure to take a moment to stop and thank these individuals for the positive contribution they are making to our downtown and congratulate them for a year of exciting achievements.

    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 December 3, 2018.


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