Construction continues in the downtown core in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Monday, July 4, 2022. City council has given $20,000 to the Grande Prairie Downtown Association to continue its marketing and awareness programming. Mayor Jackie Clayton says construction downtown should be complete in August. (Photo by Jesse Boily)Jesse Boily

Original Published on Jul 07, 2022 at 09:58

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The ongoing construction in the downtown core of Grande Prairie continues, and businesses are feeling the disruption.

Last week (June 27), the Grande Prairie Downtown Association (GPDA) requested $20,000 from city coffers to continue a marketing and awareness campaign to support downtown businesses.

City council decided it would release $20,000 from the communications budget for the Downtown Business Area to the GPDA.

“There was $20,000 left in the marketing fund that had been identified last year,” explained Jackie Clayton, Grande Prairie mayor.

“The Downtown Association came forward and asked if they could spend that money to do enhanced marketing right now and continue through the summer until the last little bit of Phase 4 gets completed.”

Phase 4 of the city’s Downtown Rehabilitation and Streetscapes project started again in May and is expected to be completed in August. In 2021, downtown businesses were also impacted due to replacements of the storm, sanitary, and water lines, along with a full road reconstruction.

“They’re so close to the finish line last year with that little bit of work that wasn’t able to get completed it had to sit through the winter and be a temporary fix,” said Clayton.

Downtown businesses are feeling the disruptions.

“2021 was consumed with the Phase 4 construction project, not only were immediate businesses affected, but the entire (downtown) core felt disruption,” said Kristina MacNeil, GPDA chair.

“Times have been really tough for the businesses; we want to create a really positive experience to get more people to come downtown.”

“There are not many ways that we can address the difficulties that businesses have had downtown with a lack of access to their buildings, and this is one of the things we can do,” said coun.

Council previously approved $90,000 in grants to the GPDA, where the association hired a marketing firm to create a prominent marketing and awareness campaign, said MacNeil.

“We are proud to say that we delivered a marketing campaign like no other,” she said.

“The intent was to make the public aware that our membership focused on the positives and not the negatives.”

She says more than 80 videos were created, and a constant presence on social media resulted in a majority of positive feedback from patrons and citizens.

“We look forward to new and exciting economic impacts, the positive quality of life and pride of place attributes and the growth in density of the city center,” said MacNeil.

City administration says funds were also used for radio ads and signage around the city.

“There was a lot of conversation about building into the capital budget communication money, to make sure that we’re communicating people ‘hey, downtown’s open for business. Our businesses are excited for what’s going on, and we want you to get down there,’” said coun. Dylan Bressey.

“This was money we specifically built into the budget for these purposes.”

Council voted to support the release of the funds, with mayor Clayton and councillors Wendy Bosch, Grant Berg, and John Lehners not participating in the discussions and voting due to conflicts of interest.

This item reprinted with permission from Town & Country News, Beaverlodge, Alberta