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Upward and onward for new St. Jacobs BIA

Community, collaboration and creativity are at the heart of the St. Jacobs Business Improvement Area, and those concepts will be shaping their plans for 2017 and beyond.

The group has been around the village for just over a year, and after a successful first go around, chair Ed Denyer of Eco Café says 2017 is going to be even better.

“We have a concrete plan. We have the agenda, we had our AGM, we have projects, we have money set aside, we are finishing projects from last year,” he said, referring to the new signs welcoming drivers at the north and south ends of the village. “The lettering for the bottom is on order, and now, there is a phase-two to it. There is about $10,000 left in the budget from last year that will cover the landscaping for both signs. It is going to have armour stone, and we are trying to keep it indigenous in terms of the flora around it. The idea is to have it be low-maintenance, but have it be part of the natural landscape and attractive. We were thinking some natural grass, but something local. That will be the finishing touch.”

One of the BIA’s projects for this year builds on the signage work, and is about creating consistency for the tourist area.

“We are trying to do a follow-up with the same look and feel as the market. We want to keep it consistent with the newer design. We are trying to get a billboard down at that end showing that the village is this way,” said Denyer, mentioning the BIA was working with Woolwich Township on creating an identifiable theme for the village. “We are also working with the township on their projections for wayfinding signs, trying to figure out what to point at and what signage to use. There is what the township wants, and then inside each district, there are some locational signs, that we can work with them and change along with their location. We want to follow the same design pattern that we have come up with, with the other signs.”

With new signs up, leading visitors to downtown St. Jacobs, there is one big roadblock in the way: the construction at both ends of town. There are long detours in place for those coming from the south, and another for those coming from the north.

While the construction can be inconvenient, and possibly raise more than a few complaints and concerns, Denyer says it is all about looking towards the future. 

One of the new signs purchased by the one-year-old St. Jacobs BIA sits at the north end of the village, greeting visitors.

“The construction is hard. It is year two of it, and people are fed up. To me, I think that there are other things that are more important. I think construction and detours are an easy thing to complain about,” he said. “When I look down the road, I see progress and improvement. I see vision of the future, and it sounds corny, but that is what I see. I think this has been hard on people and I think that the village has changed. The dynamic of the village has changed. I think tourism in Canada has changed and that affects all of us.”

Once the majority of that construction is in the rear-view mirror, the BIA is urging all the storefronts in the village to celebrate Canada’s birthday. For Canada 150, the BIA used part of their budget to get Canadian flags as decoration in celebration.

“For Canada Day, we are asking everyone to put their flags out in the flower planters, get that theme flowing through the village. With the flowers, it is also a bit of a beautification effort,” he said.

Denyer says the BIA is planning ahead for a future after construction with more than flowers and flags, and looking on to bigger projects than what the current iteration of the BIA is capable of with a limited budget and seven members.

“There is another concept out there with possibly looking at renewing or replacing the benches around town. Those are big dollar items. If we just did benches, we would be out our whole budget, so we are looking at how we can piggyback with someone else and see if we can figure out a way to assist and do more and build from there. It is all through partnerships here in the village. That will take our budget further. That is the message right now: we are trying to collaborate, and trying to be creative.”

They are also partnering up with other local groups to make one summer event bigger than each could have accomplished on their own, the St. Jacobs Amazing Weekend.

“Our budget is pretty small, so we can only chip away at it. Last year, the big thing was the signs, this year, we are trying to launch a second event. We have St. Jacobs Sparkles which has been amazing, but this year, we allotted some of our budget to add to those things,” he said. “We are doing (the amazing weekend) as a collaboration with the community association and the Lions Club. The BIA doesn’t have the volunteers that the community association has. They have more than we do, so we have some funds, and then we get together and we can put together something like this. Last year was great, and I think this year will do well. It will parlay into something that is buildable year after year.”

The St. Jacobs BIA passed their $40,800 budget and presented it to Woolwich Township council on May 9.

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