What downtown Sarnia needs to grow is a simplified Business Improvement Association, a city real estate developer says.
Patrick Coutu is currently working with City Hall staff to develop a template for a downtown BIA.
“In layman terms, all I want to do is collectively pool money where we use it to operate events and market the area. That’s all I’m trying to accomplish,” the Coldwell Banker realtor said.
“Artwalk, First Friday — they’re just volunteer and they’ve gotten a certain level of momentum. But you can’t keep riding the coattails of volunteers. At some point people have got to pay and you’ve got to have professional organization.”
The objective in working with city staff is to determine how a levee on core property owners could be collected and used to market and promote the downtown.
Coutu said he wants the BIA concept to be simple and tailored for Sarnia.
“They can be so complicated that they’re basically like running a micro-city. That’s exactly what we don’t want.”
Once a framework is worked out, the next hurdle would be getting downtown landowners on board. So far, the reception has been positive, Coutu said.
The downtown has come a long way over the past decade. In one project last year, he and investor Jim Pumple breathed new life into the former Liquid Johnny’s building on Christina Street, establishing high-end lofts and a restaurant.
But Coutu believes the downtown could do even better with some organization and regular financial contributions from stakeholders, he said.
“A professional organization could kind of push us over the hump.”
City council has asked staff to prepare a report for its consideration in an “expeditious” manner.