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Sherbrooke looking to give downtown area a facelift

130 acres of land along the St. Mary's River was donated to the Nova Scotia Nature Trust by members of the Sobey family.
The St. Mary's River, in the Municipality of the District of St. Mary's, where Sherbrooke is located. -File photo

Request for proposal stage recently closed for Streetscape Plan

Changes and improvements are coming to the community of Sherbrooke in the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s.

A request for proposal closed Dec. 21, for the Sherbrooke Streetscape Plan.

Currently, the Streetscape Plan is a tourism initiative intended to optimize the ability of Sherbrooke to attract and bring back guests.

“Basically, it’s to spur investment from the tourism industry,” Kelly Greenland, economic development and planning officer for the district, said.
“It’s trying to get people who are, maybe, driving along Highway 7, once they reach Sherbrooke, to turn right at the key intersection, instead of going left.”

Greenland said the Streetscape Plan wants to help intrigue potential guests passing, while driving along the Eastern Shore.

“We want them taking a stop and going into the village or checking out our downtown area, and to stay a while for a little visit,” Greenland said. “And hopefully, it will bring them back.”
According to information from the St. Mary’s website, the objective of the project is, “to improve the public realm along the Main Street/Highway 7 project area.”

To achieve this, the district intents to create infrastructure and gathering places to encourage public-private connections and encourage pedestrian activity in the downtown core.

If that sounds a bit open-ended, that’s by design, said Greenland, who noted the request for proposal is seeking the vision of those who want to work on the project.

“We don’t know what the improvements will be yet. We purposefully didn’t put a lot of detailed parameters in the RFP, because we want to see ideas come out of the proposals,” Greenland said.

Greenland noted the RFP also entails a “visioning exercise,” that will be taken into account when reviewing proposals, seeing what vision is the best fit for Sherbrooke.

“One consultant may have an entirely different vision from another in terms of on-the-ground-improvements,” Greenland said. “We want the pride the residents and business owners have in the Sherbrooke area to be evident in the appearance on the outside.”

Greenland emphasized that the choice the district makes will be “the best fit for Sherbrooke and the Main Street area. What fits into the identity that business owners and residents identify with.”
Potential improvements, generally speaking, will also include better driving and parking options to allow for better, safer flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Landscaping and general beautification also will feature in the plans for Sherbrooke.

The district’s plans will dovetail with other regional tourism projects – such as those related to the historical Sherbrooke Village site – and is expected to trigger greater economic activity in the St. Mary’s region.

This connection to the village site is important, Greenland noted, because “the village is part of our identity.”

“It will be interesting to see how consultants respond to that, and what degree of integration they will propose,” Greenland said. “We want to make Sherbrooke Village a destination.”

The district anticipates the improvements to “enhance the public realm and the perception of Sherbrooke’s Main Street prosperity and safety, including increased use of the public realm by private businesses, citizens and visitors as gathering places which spill over into increased customer traffic for local businesses.”

So far, Greenland noted there has been a great deal of local interest in the project.

“I think the scope of the project is narrow enough that we’ll see a pretty quick turnover and timeline, from beginning to end,” Greenland said.

“There’s flexibility in the RFP, but we want to wrap it up by the spring or early summer,” she added, referring to a specific actionable plan.

Greenland noted the district wants a plan with a set-in-stone implementation component, so the actual details of when things can be expected to happen are available. That remains to be determined, depending on which proposal is chosen.

“It will be a fleshed-out plan. So, it depends on what proposal we go with, and what sort of timing is included in that proposal,” she said. “One consultant may have a medium-term implementation plan, and another may have different timing aspects.”

The maximum budget for the project is set at $43,000. Greenland noted at this time, while there is still much in the air in terms of planning, the district is not able to disclose its sources of funding.


Goals


The Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s has established a number of goals that consultants need to meet, in their plans to improve the downtown area. These include the following.

• A review of the existing conditions and policy framework

• A strategy and visioning exercise

•Concepts, designs and phasing options reviewed

• Cost estimates

• Implementation

• community engagement

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