Black Press file photo

Black Press file photo

Castlegar adopts housing strategy and downtown plan

Two documents lay out ways to increase housing options and make the downtown more vibrant.

Following online surveys, focus groups, stakeholder meetings, a design charette, and advisory committee meetings, Castlegar city council has officially adopted a housing strategy and downtown area plan.

The documents are part of the city’s 2019-23 strategic plan and were shaped by extensive input from over 750 participants and two committed advisory committees comprised of community members and stakeholders.

“Castlegar is experiencing significant growth and these will guide our decision-making now and position us to plan for the future,” says Mayor Kirk Duff.

“The city is committed to making Castlegar a special place to call home and we are looking forward to using these plans to improve the vibrancy of the downtown and create neighbourhoods with a full range of housing options.”

Both the housing strategy and downtown area plan include many recommendations and suggestions for implementation. The next step is for council and staff to develop short and longer-term implementation plans that include funding strategies for both the plans.

The city is already putting the plans into action and purchased the historical old Eremenko building at 310 Columbia Ave. and 1224 3rd St. to develop housing and support the community’s vision for additional cultural attractions downtown with the relocations of the Kootenay Gallery of Art.

The housing strategy and downtown area plan are available on the city’s website at Highlights include:

Housing Strategy

Key Findings:

• Castlegar has a housing shortage in all types of housing, including market and rental.

• Castlegar needs greater housing diversity and better coordination and leadership for developing housing.

• Many community members are experiencing housing instability.

• There is significant stigma around poverty, mental health and racism related to housing.

Key Recommendations for the City:

• Re-examine its Official Community Plan and zoning bylaws to enable greater flexibility in housing.

• Partner on housing initiatives and advocate for consistent funding and resources to support housing in the community.

• Collaborate with service providers to address short and long-term emergency and transitional housing needs.

What the City’s Doing:

• Working with partners on several housing initiatives, including the Eremenko building project.

• City will continue to work the housing advisory committee to identify key priorities and opportunities.

• City donated lands to support projects led by Kootenay Society for Community Living and Habitat for Humanity.

• City initiated the Castlegar Community Collaborative to support poverty reduction and those at risk or experiencing homelessness in the community.

Downtown Area Plan

Key Findings:

• Castlegar needs to attract more residential development and people into the Downtown.

• Castlegar needs consistent and modern design guidelines for both commercial and multi-family developments

• Having a vibrant downtown benefits everyone, including businesses in other areas of the City.

Key Recommendations for the City:

• Re-examine its Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaws to enable greater flexibility for people to work and live in the same area and for residential infill.

• Seek out partnerships and redevelopment opportunities to reinvigorate the downtown.

• Consider financial incentives to assist with redevelopment and façade improvements.

What the City’s Doing:

• The city will continue to seek partnerships and redevelopment opportunities.

• The city initiated and expanded its open streets pilot project to create more vibrant outdoor spaces.