Parksville mayoral candidates talks about downtown revitalization

Downtown business association president says Oceanside Health Centre took a lot of businesses and agencies out of the city's core

Mayoral candidate Marc Lefebvre says revitalizing the city’s downtown will be a top priority for him if he wins office on Nov. 15.

Lefebvre said he will host, within his first 90 days in office and in partnership with the Parksville Downtown Business Association (PDBA), a Downtown Revitalization Forum to explore ways to continue improving the city’s core.

“Making Parksville’s downtown more attractive, pedestrian friendly and economically successful is my objective,” Lefebvre said in a news release issued this week. “I’ll promote and support an on-going program to take downtown revitalization to the next level.”

Lefebvre said Parksville now hosts several welcoming and impressive commercial and multi-family residential projects which are contributing to the downtown’s economic viability.

“These projects were enthusiastically supported by city council but we can’t stop now,” said Lefebvre, a four-term city councillor who is endorsed by outgoing Mayor Chris Burger.

PDBA president Kevin Clayton said his organization is not endorsing any candidate, but he said he is pleased to hear there is discussion about downtown revitalization.

Clayton also said there have been positive signs of late with the construction of the new Co-op gas station development that includes housing and the new Vancouver Island Insurance Centre building.

“(Those projects) created some positive vibe in the downtown,” said Clayton. “It shows it is still a vital area.”

Clayton also said it is difficult for developers to consider new buildings in the downtown when they are not likely to get the rental income required to make a project viable. He said the going rental rate in the downtown core is somewhere between $10-$14/square foot, while new projects would likely need to fetch $20/square foot for viability.

“There are only certain tenants who can afford that,” said Clayton.

The PDBA president also said the construction of the Oceanside Health Centre and the accompanying exodus of downtown-based businesses and services to that building hurt the city’s core.

Lefebvre’s opponent for the mayor’s job, Bill Neufeld, said revitalization of the downtown is “absolutely critical.”

There are tax incentives,” he said. “We have to get people living there, working there. It has to be market-driven, but we can facilitate the development of the downtown.”

In his news release, Lefebvre said he and the PDBA will invite all downtown property owners and business operators to the revitalization forum to explore ways that all parties can work together to maintain current momentum.