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North Battleford Mayor Ian Hamilton says a trip to Moose Jaw by a local delegation to check out that city’s downtown core was a good thing, but he says North Battleford is a different case.
City councillors Ray Fox and Ron Crush, along with Battlefords Heritage Society President Richard Hiebert toured Moose Jaw’s downtown core last week. They were impressed with the way that city preserved some of its older buildings, some dating back more than 100 years.
That’s good for Moose Jaw, Hamilton said during an interview with the Daily News, but he says that city had the benefit of a spa and a casino to lure tourists and anchor other downtown development. They also have the tunnels that nortorious mobster Al Capone allegedly used -- another tourist attraction.
“They have the spa downtown, they have the casino downtown which can anchor certain developments, and they have the tunnels,” Hamilton says.
However, he says, “That’s not saying we can’t build our own identity.”
In the 80s, Moose Jaw’s downtown core was dying and developers were eying old buildings, planning to tear them down and create new developments. The spa was developed, the tunnels were converted into a tourist attraction, the casino was built, and old buildings were redeveloped.
Hamilton’s understanding is that the redevelopment of Moose Jaw’s downtown core was primarily done without city council’s direct involvement. It’s his understanding the city supported the work of others. He says North Battleford could learn from that.
“What we can benefit from and learn from is where you can encourage developers to work together to create something. I’m saying it can be done, and this is community-based stuff,” he says.
Hamilton agrees with city council candidate and local Social Services employee Steven Cormons that to solve the problem of undesireables downtown, their problems, like unemployment, addictions and poverty, have to be solved.
He says in some cases, that may be solved through the city’s new North Battleford Community Action Plan, which is modelled on a holistic approach to crime that involves representatives of entities like Social Services, school boards, Health, RCMP and the city.
Underneath that umbrella is group that -- for now -- is called the HUB. That committee, featuring representatives of police, Social Services, Education, and other agencies will meet twice a week to solve problems that could lead to crime – issues that need to be handled within a 24 to 48-hour period.
Hamilton says the problems of all the members of the “demographic” that hangs around in the downtown area may not be addressed by the HUB or its umbrella group but it may be able to assist some.
He says the larger solution will likely involve a partnership similar to that.
“I’m not againtst what Steve is saying, but we have to look for partnerships just as we did with the HUB,” Hamilton says.
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