The Town of Whitecourt's Vitalization Grant Program helps business owners in the downtown core and along the Highway 43 corridor upgrade the façade of their buildings to match up with the town's architectural theme of stone and wood. Chosen years ago, the theme became more apparent in downtown Whitecourt as more and more businesses joined the movement.
The Vitalization Grant Program is a way for interested business owners to get some funding back once they complete their upgrade to encourage more participation in the upgrade process. Each year, the Town of Whitecourt advertises when applications can be sent in and did so earlier in the year. The 2021 budget included $40,000 to support the grant program, but just under five thousand was utilized in the first open call for applications. The second round of applications closed at the end of August, and four applications were received.
Depending on the projects put forward, successful applicants can receive up to $10,000 towards their projects. Those approved to participate in the program only receive their funding allotment once the project is completed and final reporting occurs. During the September 13 Regular Meeting of Council, Director of Planning and Development Jennine Loberg brought forward the applications for Council to decide on.
The first applicant was the strip mall at 5023 50 Avenue, the home of Family Dental Health, Community Futures Yellowhead East, and Edward Jones, to name a few. "They are looking to do some stonework on the base of their building up to the bottom of the window ledges," she explained. The application also mentioned the addition of wood-style shakes on the roof dormers. The total project cost is $24,299, and the recommended grant allocation from Administration was $5,753.
Next up was the Seventh Day Adventist Church currently being built at 4808 50 Avenue. "They want to install some granite siding on the south side of the building alongside 50 Avenue as well as stonework on the east side," explained Loberg. The project was listed as $15,532 with a funding request of $3,883 as part of the Vitalization Plan.
The third was Vista Theatre. "They are looking to install some faux rock on the centre of the building face fronting 51 Avenue. They are also looking to do some paint and window frames which will be a nice upgrade to that building." The owners are also looking at installing new light fixtures, soffit, and adding trim to the underside of the marquee to complement the addition of the stone. "An upgrade to this older building in the downtown core is exactly the type of project that the Vitalization Grant endeavours to achieve." Project costs stated $12,951. The funding request was $3,238.
The final application was the Living Waters Catholic Separate School Division office located at 4204 Kepler Street. The program states that applicable buildings must be downtown or along the Highway 43 corridor, but Loberg explained that this project should count. "This one is a little bit tricky as it doesn't quite lie directly budding Highway 43. It's a little bit behind, just past the RCMP station. The grant policy is a little bit grey in that respect as it says it has to be along the highway corridor but doesn't really say that it has to be right alongside it."
She explained that properties that fall within the grey area of the policy receive a different amount of funding. "As per past practise, we are recommending half of their total grant application, so instead of getting the full ten thousand dollars, we are recommending five thousand dollars. It could stimulate other buildings in the area to update their façade as well, and so with that, we thought some funding might be able to be made available," said Loberg. Councillor Tom Pickard said he agreed to include it even if it weren't technically on the highway. "I think that with the significant amount of traffic off of Highway 43, with that being the access into the Tim Horton's, I can certainly buy in that it is close enough. I appreciate that the group looking at these applications recognized that."
The Living Waters Catholic Separate School Division office will see some upgrades that didn't qualify for the grant, including new windows, sidewalks, and parking areas. Plans that did qualify included covering approximately 95 percent of the building in barnwood aluminum and stone. The entire project is listed at $150,163, and they applied for $10,000. The approved amount, as mentioned above, was cut in half, giving them $5,000 of available funding.
Councillor Matt Connell made a motion to approve the applications and give a green light for the four applicants to receive funding once they complete the upgrades. The motion was approved unanimously. The total cost of all four applications was $17,874.
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press