From Jan. 31 to March 1, Airdrie residents came together through workshops, focus groups and online surveys to discuss downtown Airdrie – its past, present and future.
Airdrie City Council asked staff to conduct this visioning exercise because a comprehensive public consultation program on the subject had not been undertaken since 1999.
The response from the public showed a pent-up demand to talk openly about new ideas for the downtown; evidenced by the fact that two additional focus group sessions were held in order to provide enough opportunities for all of the residents who wanted to register.
In total, the City received input from 105 workshop participants, 97 unique focus group participants and 430 completed online surveys as part of this downtown visioning exercise.
Through these platforms, residents shared their ideas on the geographic boundaries of the downtown, what they expect in the way of services and activities within downtown, what the City’s collective vision for the area should be as well as some of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing Airdrie’s downtown at the present time.
The main themes heard were:
- The vast majority of residents want Airdrie’s downtown to be better overall;
- Approximately one-third of the survey respondents said there is nothing unique about downtown Airdrie. Of those respondents, most wanted something unique created in the downtown;
- There was a general feeling of optimism and potential from most respondents. Many who participated wanted improvements in the downtown to respect the past history and still retain some degree of “small-town feel”;
- Some of the common items referred to that give downtown Airdrie its “small-town feel” included physical items, such as banners, special sidewalk materials and trees/plantings; but it also included some other types of connections, including the friendly people and atmosphere that many people experience in the downtown;
- The general desire is to make downtown more walkable and accessible;
- The geographic area on which 90 per cent of residents agree to be considered downtown is around the Main Street core. This is a much smaller area than the current Downtown Plan boundary sets out; and
- Residents would like to see the City of Airdrie “set a vision and stick to it” and help the community with facilitation, negotiation and creating incentives for furthering downtown development.
In addition to the principal consultation formats listed above, several residents and business owners contacted the City planning department directly during the process to provide unique ideas or initiatives that could be incorporated into a future plan for the downtown, should Council elect to proceed with further planning.
And in a specific consultation event with the Airdrie Board of Youth Affairs (AYBA), their representatives challenged all residents of Airdrie to work together to improve the downtown and to put forward “sweat equity” and “in-kind” donations of time, material and effort to make downtown more representative of the incredible community feel overall.
Details of the report to Council can be found at: airdrie.ca/downtown.
Questions about the process or next steps are welcomed via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.