Downtown revitalizations are essential for creating vibrant, sustainable communities. They preserve historic architecture, boost economic growth, and foster a sense of identity and community. Revitalized downtown areas often become cultural hubs, supporting local arts, culture, and small businesses, and enhancing the overall urban experience. In Terrace, British Columbia, the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area (TDIA), consisting of volunteers, local businesses, and the City of Terrace, has been collaborating with Urban Systems to revitalize its downtown area. This initiative, driven by recent investments and a growing population, aims to rejuvenate the downtown core. Inspired by Urban’s successful revitalization projects in places like Quesnel and Houston, the TDIA selected Urban as the sole contractor to lead this transformative project.

Uncovering unique opportunities to breathe new life into this area.

Central to the revitalization of downtown Terrace is the 4600 Block of Lakelse Avenue. Once the commercial heart of the downtown, the block has faced a decline over the years due to various factors. To address this, a dedicated team from Urban, including Andrew Cuthbert, Tenille Thompson, Matthew Sallee, and Beatriz Mendes, with additional support from the Vancouver team, has been collaborating closely with the TDIA and the broader community to uncover unique opportunities to breathe new life into this area. Their goal is to create a vibrant, inclusive community hub where residents and visitors alike can come together to shop, dine, and connect.

One of the key challenges faced by the TDIA was managing the impact of construction on local businesses. To address this, the team drew from case studies of similar projects in Smithers, Quesnel, Rossland, and Houston, supporting the TDIA in identifying strategies to minimize disruptions and support businesses during construction. Key strategies included clear communication, maintaining access to storefronts, and careful timing of construction. These efforts were bolstered by a strong focus on engagement and collaboration, with the TDIA hosting events and open houses to gather feedback and ideas from the community.

Working closely with TDIA volunteers and board members, including President Alex Pietralla and Vice President Liz Smaha, Andrew and Tenille led a targeted engagement event with the local business community and downtown stakeholders in 2023. Broad concepts presented at the gathering included a screen running the length of the Days Inn parking lot to separate it from the sidewalk and featured art and plantings to make that side of the block more attractive.

Engagement event with the local business community and downtown stakeholders in 2023.

“During the public engagement phase for downtown revitalization plans, we often encounter resistance to change and concerns about aspects like parking removal. But during Phase 1 of engagement in Terrace, there was a remarkable level of energy and enthusiasm for this project and the team actually identified ways to improve the parking experience while enhancing pedestrian safety. Many young families eagerly embraced change, suggesting new ideas and expressing excitement for features such as bioswales, innovative technologies, and a closer connection to the farmers market,” said Tenille.

Beautification projects like the mural program, hanging baskets, sculptures, and banners have already begun to reshape the 4600 Block into a more inviting and engaging space. The completion of the canopy removal has further enhanced the brightness and appeal of several storefronts, contributing to the revitalization effort.

After concluding Phase 1, the team produced a comprehensive report that included cost estimates, best practices, case study research, and strategies for managing construction while ensuring that stores and business owners could continue operating. Phase 2 marked a strategic step toward transforming the 4600 Block of Lakelse Avenue into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly area, as detailed in the report. This phase, a collaborative effort with the TDIA, integrated the initial plan into the City of Terrace’s infrastructure renewal, aligning with their plans for a unified approach. The approved concepts and cost estimates in this phase marked a significant milestone, showcasing the impact of community-driven urban design and revitalization.

Following this milestone, the concept and engagement work were jointly presented by Alex Pietralla, Polly Rudderham, and David Block at the 2024 Business Improvement Area (BIA) BC Conference in Kamloops, showcasing the approach. They highlighted its integration with the previous downtown action plan and emphasized Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) as a design criteria and principle guiding the project.

With the City of Terrace set to initiate Phase 3 of the project, the future looks bright for downtown Terrace. The TDIA has formally adopted the plan, and the City is currently seeking to schedule the next phase of the project in its capital plan. The team is eager to continue their collaboration with the City for this next phase. Through their shared vision and commitment, the TDIA, the City of Terrace, and the community are paving the way for a revitalized downtown that embodies the spirit and vitality of Terrace. Learn more about the project on the TDIA website or by reaching out to the team.

Preferred Concept for Terrace