Wetaskiwin Main Street open for business

Pipestone Flyer

    It’s been a bumpy road throughout the Main Street Revitalization project, but on Friday, October 11, 2013, 100’s of people flocked to the corner of 50th avenue of Main Street adjacent to the Credit Union to observe the official opening of Phase II of the Main Street Revitalization project. Some love the new design. Some hate the new design. But regardless of controversy, the entire Main Street is once again open for business. 

    It was back in March 10, 2010 that Genivar, the consulting firm guiding the Main Street Re-vitalization project, left Wetaskiwin loaded with armfuls of drawings and what they felt was enough public and business input to enable them to take the Project to the design stage. In August, 2010, the City signed off on the preferred design. In September/October 2010, Genivar prepared drawings of the preferred design and on October 7th shared the results of their efforts with the public of Wetaskiwin at another Open House. 

    It was reported at the start of the project, “The City has acquired multiyear grants (2011-2013) to pay for the Main Street Revitalization project of which 90% has to be done because the infrastructure (water, sewer) requires upgrading and the streets need to be replaced. The other 10% will provide designs that will improve traffic flow and operations, create a pedestrian-friendly environment and enhance the street’s visual appeal and functionality”.

    At that time the citizens of Wetaskiwin were taken on their first trip down the 1.6 kilometers of the revitalized 50th Avenue…Well, actually it was a computer produced video tour replicating a drive down 50th Avenue starting at the High School and ending the journey at the Water Tower. 

Costs rose, designs changed, the scope of the project changed 

    Tenders for the Main Street Revitalization Project closed on April 12, 2011. But there was only one bid and City administration reported it was approximately 50% over the budgeted estimate. The bid to complete the entire project from City Hall to the Water Tower was from Continental Earthmovers Ltd at a total project cost of $14,601,603.73. Administration was directed by Council to review the Mainstreet Revitalization Project scope and the tender documents, and prepare to re-tender a revised project for construction in 2012. Administration was directed to determine why the tender was so high and why only one tender was received. 

    On May 9, 2011, Council moved to reject the tender and to re-tender a revised project for construction beginning in 2012. Alas, costs continued to change, designs changed, the scope of the project changed until finally, tenders for Phase I (from Terracotta to RBC) and Phase II (TD to No Frills) were accepted and construction began. . 

    Phase I (of IV) of Main Street project (Terracotta restaurant to the Royal Bank) was approved at a cost of $4,224,151.05 plus additional costs of $635K for furniture, etc. In July, 2012 the new design of Phase I was quite different than what residents believed they remembered the plans to be. Sidewalks curved out into what was once the street, and what was once a turning lane was now part of the sidewalk.

April 22, 2013 edition of City Highlights 

     The City Administration reported, “A request has been made to Municipal Affairs for the City to be approved for an increase in our debt limit. The approval being requested is only to fund Phase II (TD Bank to No Frills) of this project as follows;  

Municipal Sustainability Initiative Grant      $2,127,784 

Utility Reserves                                       $375,000                

Debentures (borrowing)                            $4,067,216 

Total Cost                                              $6,570,000

Phase III (No Frills to Water Tower) and Phase IV (Terracotta to City Hall) have been delayed.

The street is open for business.

    MLA Verlyn Olson, during the opening ceremony, stressed the importance of having a central gathering point in Cities; that being Main Street in Wetaskiwin.  His comments take me back to earlier article(s) and emails to the City Manager and Mayor where I suggested the City of Wetaskiwin Main Street could gain some uniqueness by having a section of Main Street designated for pedestrian traffic, only which would become the City of Wetaskiwin Market Square. 

    Cities without a typical Market Square have created one. They block off each end of the street and place benches and planters down the centre turning it into a pedestrian walkway. Whether temporary or permanent, the Market Square becomes a unique setting to provide a location where locals and visitors visit, shop, relax or gather to enjoy a variety of special festivals such as the Ag and Arts Festival, Arts and Craft shows, Farmers Markets, entertainment….the potential is endless. This section of Main Street would become the home to unique art and craft shops, patio pubs and cafes, coffee houses, restaurants and the location of an ongoing series of special events and entertainment.  

    Now that Main Street is open, an important task for the new City Council is to lever the new asset into more business(es) for the City and provide leadership with creating  means to fill the empty buildings on Main Street. Businesses attract people and people attract more businesses.

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