About 20 people concerned about Virden’s future gathered on April 18 to learn about the Main Street Boost report on Virden and add their own thoughts.
The report issued by Canada’s National Trust contained 30 suggestions for revitalizing Virden. Two have already been done, and the remainder are listed below.
Several concepts got the strongest support from local residents and business owners at the public meeting.
1. Create wayfinding signage
Lance McLean has had this on his mind for decades, he says. He created mock-up pictures for the meeting so people could see his vision.
“Over the past 32 years of owning the sign shop (McLean Signs), I’ve talked to so many people who say ‘Oh yeah, Virden, we stopped for gas there.’ To me, it’s critical that people know there’s a thriving community in the middle of the prairies.”
McLean designed two images: one that shows a sign directing travelers down King St. to the town centre and the other shows an archway to the downtown because, as he says, “Like Disneyland’s main entrance, people love passing under a type of entrance, like a threshold into a new experience.”
2. Undertake a general cleanup
Virden residents Ellen Heaman and Corey Nixon both cited concerns over the appearance of downtown Virden.
Nixon told the open house crowd, “We need to do things like clean up exterior storage, fix derelict fences, and trim hedges.”
Heaman has compiled a binder of photos documenting garbage piled up in back lanes, unshoveled downtown sidewalks, and broken windows.
3. Run more events downtown
Specifically, the report suggests businesses and organizations work together to hold dynamic events that create experiences.
It gave the examples of youth farm days and joint business promotions. The report puts a strong emphasis on groups cooperating on projects.
It also recommends creation of a temporary pocket park until the burned-out lots on Seventh can be rebuilt.
4. Make a plan for Scallion Creek
Terry Johnson gave creekside recreational development a high priority, suggesting walking and cycling paths along the waterway.
Businessman Clayton Murray says his discussion group would like to see a skating path on the creek with removable warming huts.
“I thought of this in Brandon last winter. I saw tons of Virden people skating at the oval and likely eating in the restaurants and shopping while they were there.”
EDM Liza Park told the audience the next step for the Virden Boost committee is to take the report and “look for the champions in the community to drive it forward.”
One of her priorities is to create a community expo event where people can come to learn about their town and its activities, and the Boost committee can update them on its progress.
The six-person Virden Boost steering committee has been given a mandate from the Town to report back to council and the community on the project’s progress.
Boost Report Suggestions
The 28 remaining actions from the Main Street Boost Report are:
- Increase volunteerism through online tools.
- Develop cooperation among the Town, Arts Mosaic, the Aud, the Chamber of Commerce to communicate and promote local projects.
- Link to communities that already have been revitalized.
- Embrace heritage building renewal using quality design.
- Fire recovery: work with property owners to put in temporary park until rebuild happens.
- Fire recovery: Ensure high quality design of eventual development so it’s compatible with neighbouring buildings.
- This spring, undertake a rigorous cleanup of downtown.
- Develop wayfinding signs, banners to promote downtown and direct visitors.
- Hold a workshop with design pros to encourage construction work in 2018.
- Engage youth in a revived Communities in Bloom committee.
- Inventory downtown buildings.
- Look into provincial heritage designation program and financial incentives.
- Develop a building improvement reinvestment program.
- Consider restoring old post office clock (Scott Block).
- Accumulate more historic photos to promote Vintage Virden.
- Make better use of Virden’s current brand logo.
- Tell Virden’s unique story through art, window displays, social media.
- Develop dynamic events that showcase downtown.
- Set up online calendar of activities, events.
- Develop mobile app that collects, shares Virden information.
- The Aud: set up online ticketing, re-do website, refresh online info.
- Plan more youth oriented volunteering.
- Focus on business retention and recruitment.
- Activate a plan for Scallion Creek.
- Complete the skate park and spray park.
- Online directory to promote business.
- Promote tours of Virden with trained ambassadors.
- Negotiate to remove “no left turn” rule at downtown lights.