Planners to review downtown survey

Results of the recently conducted Ponoka Downtown Survey are in and planners are looking at how results can benefit the downtown area.

Results of the recently conducted Ponoka Downtown Survey are in and town planners are looking at how that information can benefit the downtown area.

The survey was hosted by the Downtown Revitalization and Heritage Committee, explained chairperson and Coun. Teri Underhill. Participants were invited to answer a set number of questions as well as offer comments.

There were 124 participants to the survey and despite the low number, Underhill was pleased with the involvement. She says some communities are lucky to get numbers like that.

Underhill feels the majority of comments were positive although there was one she felt she needed to clarify. One respondent of the survey stated the town does not allow certain business such as shoe and clothing stores into Ponoka.

“Right now about all visitors can purchase is gasoline, groceries, fast food and booze,” the survey respondent continued. “Some owners are simply charging too much rent.”

Underhill said councillors and administration have no say over what business comes into town. “The town has no control over who wants to bring a business or who doesn’t,” explained Underhill.

“All we can do is encourage it,” she added.

Council and administration have no power over what a landlord charges, either.

Another respondent suggested “Putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t work. See Chipman Avenue.”

One respondent offered the idea to close Chipman Avenue to cars and create an environment that is conducive to open air cafes and musical performances.

“I think Ponoka’s downtown has a great foundation that can be built on. It’s just a matter of the right investments and buy-in from residents and business owners,” suggested another survey participant.

Underhill said some of the users have a valid point about the downtown area. She suggests communities need to change the way they see downtown and how it can be used.

One person suggested the old hospital, which sits on 50 Street near the downtown area, be converted into a museum.

Looking at the questions

Underhill was asked what struck her the most about the survey and she started with results from Question 4, which asked what elements people would like to see developed or improved in the downtown area.

The top choice was public murals and artwork with 65 votes in favour. For this question, users could pick more than one choice. The next highest options were public washrooms (51), public benches (50) and “other” (50). Information signage (34) and pedestrian-only streets (25) were the lowest picked options.

Underhill feels residents want downtown to “reflect the beauty of the town and the people.”

She suggests the top pick of murals and artwork show that residents would prefer to see the area beautified.

Another surprise were the results from Question 6: What per cent of personal shopping is done locally?

Of the 124 participants, 42 stated they shop locally 75 per cent of the time, 39 said 50 per cent, another 39 said 25 per cent and four said never.

To bring those numbers into perspective, Question 7 asks what people’s main reason for shopping outside of Ponoka.

Like Question 4, users were able to provide more than one choice and 113 people stated they go outside of town due to better selections. Better price and better hours were the next highest at 58 and 47 respectively. Better quality (26), better service (18) and better parking (8) were the other options.

Question 10 related to business owners, which asked how much of a capital investment they would be willing to make as part of the downtown revitalization plan. Here are the results from the 16 submissions:

• $500 or lower: 8

• $500 to $1,000: 1

• $1,000 to $1,500: 2

• More than $1,500: 5

While the majority stated under $500 or under the next highest said they would be willing to spend more than $1,500.

Underhill suggests the results from this question need some in depth consideration. She says some business owners might be looking at other avenues to improve the downtown area.

“We have work to do to discuss with property owners and businesses,” said Underhill.

For full survey results without the comments visit www.ponoka.ca.