Budgeting for Downtown Revitalization?

Continuing with our series of blogs on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA) Downtown Revitalization Program (DR), this entry will take a look at the estimated costs a community could expect to incur, and strategies to manage the cost of the initiative.

Like all economic development activities, downtown revitalization is a long-term and ongoing process. OMAFRA’s DR program is a comprehensive four-stage process aimed at moving from foundational strategic directions and actions to tangible results in a two to three year timeframe. The first year is largely focused on the development of a strategic plan and actions for downtown revitalization. An additional one to two years is a realistic expectation for the community to see initial outcomes, monitor progress, and start making strategic adjustments as needed. This process is expected to generate two types of costs:

  • One-time expenses associated with data collection, professional design consulting fees, consultant fees for preparing a plan, and project implementation fees
  • Annual expenses associated with staffing, professional development, project management, and administration (e.g. printing, communications)

Though the majority of the one-time costs will be incurred in the first year during the preparation of the plan, the annual costs are likely to be relatively similar over the duration of the process (and perhaps beyond, to an extent). The table below, from the DR Coordinator’s Manual, provides rough estimates of the costs a community might expect to incur through the downtown revitalization process.

dr blog image

Flexibility in certain elements of the process may allow a community to reduce these costs. In-kind contributions from community partners, strong volunteer engagement, and smaller-scaled initiatives can succeed in lowering both one-time and annual expenses though the process. OMAFRA’s Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisors can offer a range of suggestions to adapt the process to a community’s specific characteristics, while ensuring the community still develops evidence-based strategies to encourage downtown revitalization.

In addition, different parts of the overall process may qualify for financial support from other levels of government. For example, OMAFRA’s Rural Economic Development (RED) program provides cost-shared funding for rural communities to remove barriers to community economic development. Through RED, communities undertaking DR could receive up to 50% of the eligible costs of:

  • A full-time coordinator to guide the DR project
  • Consulting services for community design or engagement
  • Third-party printing, marketing, or promotional activities

The next intake of the RED program opens on July 31, and runs until September 29. OMAFRA’s Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisors can help you design your project, and investigate different sources of funding that may be available to support the initiative – through the RED program or other programs. For more information on OMAFRA’s Downtown Revitalization Program visit our website.

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