The Walas concept would take underused commercial spaces in downtown Chilliwack and repurpose them in truly creative ways. Mentorship and partnerships are key.

The Walas concept would take underused commercial spaces in downtown Chilliwack and repurpose them in truly creative ways. Mentorship and partnerships are key.

New Walas concept for Downtown Chilliwack to see vacant spaces filled

Walas is a consulting group that specializes in revitalizing downtown cores with a glut of vacant or under-utilized buildings.

Downtown Chilliwack needs help now.

That’s why City of Chilliwack and Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation are embarking on a unique business development proposal by Walas Concepts fuelled by innovative business incubation.

Walas is a consulting group that specializes in revitalizing downtown cores with a glut of vacant or under-utilized buildings.

“The hope is that with Walas Concepts on board, they will bring their system into our community and work on the ground with the community to become that all-important transition needed to move forward with the downtown redevelopment,” said CEPCO president Brian Coombes.

Chilliwack council approved $65,000 in CDI funding Tuesday for the “Finding the Future” concept plan, which would have a $195,000 annual budget to concentrate on business development and attraction in the downtown, as well as boosting commercial occupancy.

The creative proposal was presented to CEPCO last month. It envisions Chilliwack as a prototype of the future, “a centre for innovation and sustainability,” fostering the learning economy and a green economy, and functioning as a new business incubator with a focus on the agriculture, the environment, education and health care.

Chilliwack could become an agribusiness hub, a “food valley.”

The concept would complement the city’s downtown plan that has focused lately on land assembly, with an eye to significant redevelopment and revitalization.

“But we don’t know the exact timeline of that redevelopment,” said Coombes. “We do know the downtown needs help now.”

Walas Concepts has a proven track record in the Netherlands of creating these prototype communities of the future.

“This is not ‘build it and they will come’ that we’re talking about. It’s being proactive with the opportunities that exist right now,” said Coombes. “We don’t just need more new awnings, or another big downtown event.

“We need to explore all the options, and do our best to find the solution that pulls all these ideas together.”

The concept is to take under-used commercial spaces in the downtown core and re-purpose them. Mentorship and partnerships are key.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz likened part of the concept to a Dragons’ Den philosophy from the CBC show.

“This will help people with good, fresh business ideas who might not have the capital. That’s where the mentorship comes in,” said Gaetz.

Jobs, internships, start-ups, and collaborations are all part of the plan, with an expected full-time job creation equivalent of 200.

“I breathe, eat, sleep and dream about our downtown,” said Mayor Gaetz. “The possibilities could be endless if it had new life breathed into it.”

There would also be a full-time person working on the business incubation plan from a central downtown location.

“They will be accessible and will work hand in hand with the community on this,” Coombes said.

They didn’t just want to hire another consultant to write a big report.

“This approach is very outside the box,” he said. “It’s all of us working together on something that will have the biggest impact on the downtown.”

Regular evaluations are built into the three-year contract at six-month intervals to ensure that expectations are being met.

The expected start date is May 1, 2014, and first priority will be setting up an office downtown.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alina Durham, mother of Shaelene Bell, lights candles on behalf of Bell’s two sons during a vigil on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO and PHOTOS: Candlelight vigil for Shaelene Bell of Chilliwack sends message of hope

Small group of family, friends gathered to shine light for 23-year-old mother missing for four weeks

The Great Bear Snowshed on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack testified in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Feb. 25, 2021 that his brakes started smoking in about this location, and soon after he lost all braking, which led to a multi-vehicle crash further down the road on Aug. 5, 2016. (GoogleMaps)
Truck driver charged in Coquihalla crash showed ‘wanton and reckless disregard for other people’s lives’: Crown

Despite already having brake issues, Roy McCormack tackled the steepest hill on the infamous highway

Abbotsford International Airport. Black Press file photo.
Abbotsford Airport had 4th highest traffic in Canada in 2020, and its number are down

Statistics Canada report describes a ‘devastating year’ for air travel

(Black Press - file photo)
WEATHER: Enjoy the sun today, prepare for a week of rain

Clouds and rain to arrive by evening, Environment Canada forecasts

Chilliwack’s Ryan Wugalter with his kids, three-year-old Mira and 15-month-old Solomon. Wugalter recently released his children’s album Super Giraffe. (Submitted)
Chilliwack father releases children’s album, songs about superhero giraffe and not eating magnets

Inspiration for Ryan Wugalter’s new album ‘Super Giraffe’ came from his two young kids

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Inez Louis, who is strategic operations planner with the health department in the Sto:lo Service Agency, talks about infection control in the latest YouTube video about COVID-19 created in partnership with the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice and the Chilliwack Economic Recovery Network. (YouTube)
VIDEO: Nurse Inez Louis explains how infection control is not social control

The difference is important for Indigenous people to hear in the context of Canada’s colonial past

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Most Read