The number of former city councillors who were on hand for Monday’s momentous announcement about the redevelopment of Chilliwack’s historic core is a fair indication of how long it’s taken.
For more than a decade politicians, city staff, community members and Chilliwack’s economic development arm have been struggling to craft a workable solution to the hollowing of the city’s downtown.
Money has been spent, plans have been made. And yet for every step forward there seemed another step back. For every investment and strategic plan, another building came down, or another business relocated.
Chilliwack certainly isn’t the first community to face these challenges. Changing shopping patterns and suburban migration have left many downtowns an echo of their former selves. What was once the economic and cultural heart of a community is a dusty relic of a bygone age, noted more for its litany of sad social problems than its health and vitality.
The difference, as Dave Algra pointed out, is that Chilliwack never lost hope that its commercial heart could be resuscitated. Residents always believed its historic hum would return, once new blood was pumped in.
Algra believes it has found the right prescription, and both the City of Chilliwack and CEPCO agree. Not only are they confident the developer can transform the 3.75 acre site, but that the development will set the bar for future projects in the downtown.
But what Algra also pointed out is that they can’t do it alone. They can build it, but it is up to us to ensure the shops and services come.
We can do that with our support – not just for the new businesses that will call this location home, but also the ones who have toughed it out while the planning and prognostication came to fruition.