Sarnia’s new economic development co-ordinator will be talking to residents and businesses soon to start crafting downtown and Mitton Village improvement plans, a city spokesperson says.
“Leena is going to be hitting the ground running with stakeholder consultations,” said Sarnia communications manager Steve Henschel of Leena Bourne, hired last month for the two-year neighbourhood revitalization project.
“It’s about a variety of ways to kind of support the economies in both the downtown and Mitton Village,” Henschel said.
“We don’t know exactly what those deliveries are going to be, because it’s going to be so stakeholder-driven,” he said, adding “it could range from things like physical space improvements to public spaces . . . but it could also include marketing plans or direct business supports.”
Both areas are part of a city community improvement plan that’s led Sarnia to offer grants for facade improvements, building renovations and extra residential units.
That plan, approved by council in 2020, is designed to encourage private investment in the areas via the city’s official plan, as well as via city upgrades.
Suggestions at the time included more shared-use, pedestrian-friendly streets, bumpouts and gardens, upgraded wayfinding signs, larger sidewalks, and expanding the Sarnia Farmers Market into part of Ontario Street.
The neighbourhood revitalization project “very much operates in tandem with the CIP,” said Henschel.
“We want to hear from the residents and business owners in these areas to help us come up with a plan that applies to their needs, but will also drive development in these areas.”
Sarnia received $116,000 in June from the Ontario Agriculture Ministry’s Rural Economic Development (RED) program for the project, Henschel said. The ministry and Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey announced the funding this month.
The city is matching those funds from its economic development operating budget, for a total program budget of about $232,000, hel said.
The funding period ends in July 2025, he said.
“Initiatives and deliverables stemming from the project could continue beyond this timeframe,” Henschel said in an email.
“We want to create vibrant and livable places for people to work, shop, dine and enjoy, while supporting the local economy and fostering a sense of community pride for residents,” Bourne said in a release.
Updating business inventories, compiling historical data on the areas, public consultations, digital surveys and pop-ups are also planned, city officials said at investsarnia.ca/neighbourhood-revitalization.
Details of Bourne’s meeting with “stakeholders” will be shared on the city’s website and social media once finalized, Henschel said.
A Mitton Village community development advisory committee formed in 2018 to help drive area improvements, and a My Main Street Local Business Accelerator program recently provided businesses with grants for things like technology upgrades and facade improvements.