April 17th, 2024

Committee considers value of Towne Square market pods

By Brendan Miller on November 28, 2023.

Leah Prestayko, director community development, presents the public services committee with a budget overview of Towne Square on Monday.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER

bmiller@medicinehatnews.com

City staff on Monday presented the 2023 seasonal overview of Towne Square to members of the public services committee.

Located kitty corner to city hall on First Street SE, Towne Square offers an open canopy area with LED lighting and two adjacent parking lots that offer monthly permits.

Currently there are eight market pods available for rent that can be used for outdoor markets and events.

However, despite lowering rental fees by $20 to $50 a day and lowering insurance requirements, staff say the market pods are not generating enough public interest to date.

“Activation for the market pods for the sole use of market-pod activity happened only twice (in 2023) despite some of those changes we made to promote utilization, and we received very few inquiries,” said Leah Prestayko, director of community development. “We are carefully considering what to do with the market pods and what comes next for them.”

City officials say the pods were also broken into several times this year and the area has seen an increase in safety and security concerns.

Staff say the pods have become a hub for illegal activities that include thefts, loitering and arson.

“Unfortunately we have also seen an increase in inappropriate use and behaviour in the space,” said Prestayko.

The increased time and money city staff are spending to clean and make repairs to the pods is adding up.

Coun. Ramona Robins says she isn’t convinced the market pods are the best use of public money.

“I’m not sure we are ever going to get there with the market pods,” she said. “I’m not sure whether it’s worthwhile to keep banging our heads against this wall, or to move them and put them in a place that they are going to be used.”

Staff and members of council are considering repurposing the pods so they can better serve other organizations or non-profits in the community.

“You may see us look for something like an expression of interest from the community to see what non-profit groups might be interested in utilizing one of those containers and how that might benefit the community.” said Brian Stauth, managing director of public services.

More people parking in Towne Square.

The city says parking revenue in the two adjacent lots has increased.

“Parking in 2023 is a growing success story for the city in that space,” said Prestayko.

The city saw an increase in the number of people parking in the lots and permits purchased as well as daily usage. City staff say parking makes up more than 90 per cent of Towne Square’s revenue.

Two electric vehicle charging stations have also been added.

Town Square was utilized this year for large-scale outdoor events that included the inflation of a full-sized hot-air balloon, RibFest and Midnight Madness.

Despite an increase in parking revenue the city is still $10,806 in the red of hitting a net-neutral budget goal for the project.

The city secured funding for Towne Square in 2020 through the Alberta Municipal Stimulus Fund and did not require any public funds.

Council is expected to discuss the matter at its Dec. 4 meeting.

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