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Planning Studio leads community Main Street visioning

A series of FBM-led engagement workshops across the province are helping define and redefine main streets in small communities.

“Developing a Vision for Mainstreeting Nova Scotia Communities,” looks at the opportunities and challenges facing small communities, with ways to support accessibility, land use, and strengthen community identity.

The work builds off of the expertise of FBM Planning Studio lead, Kieron Hunt, who brings experience in market analysis, urban design, main street planning, and commercial development across western Canadian communities. 

Workshops follow a conscientious “people-driven design” engagement paradigm, with residents, municipalities, councillors, business owners, non-profits, and provincial government representatives coming together at the table. Co-facilitating with Develop Nova Scotia and the Ecology Action Centre, FBM has held engagement sessions in Elmsdale, Westville, and St. Peter’s (Cape Breton).

“Main streets, in some respects, have become unloved,” says David Paterson, Planner and Designer at FBM. “A typical case we’re looking at is where a secondary highway enters a community and forms the main street as a strip of businesses. Often this location proves messy for everyone where traffic is congested and pedestrian movement doesn’t feel safe and comfortable.”

Working with residents who know their community and main street inside and out, we’re learning about the opportunities and challenges related to safe, efficient, and accessible movement between local destinations, economic vitality, and creating the kinds of places communities want and which may also create opportunities to stem population decline in smaller rural communities.

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Visioning discussions have revealed common themes as well as subtle interventions that may improve accessibility, mobility and business vitality to, from and within the main street areas. The discussions will help shape how these areas can become more integrated and holistic in the future. The discussions revealed a sense of ownership for communities seeking to embrace potential enhancements and how external stakeholders may help to play a role in this process from local to provincial levels.

The Nova Scotia Department of Energy is supporting the project through a Community Building and Engagement Grant from Connect2. FBM and the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities co-lead the planning process. Partners and supporters also include Bicycle Nova Scotia, Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, municipalities, and economic development organizations. Students from the Dalhousie University School of Planning helped facilitate the workshops and provided valuable case study research.