Amanda Brown is the Community Liaison Assistant at the Community Development Institute based in Prince Rupert.

Amanda Brown is the Community Liaison Assistant at the Community Development Institute based in Prince Rupert.

Redesigning the city’s legacy

The highs and lows of an industry town is a familiar narrative in northern B.C. and one that Prince Rupert plans to avoid.

The highs and lows of an industry town is a familiar narrative in northern B.C. and one that Prince Rupert plans to avoid.

The Community Development Institute (CDI) hosted an open house at the Community Futures’ office early February to launch its 18-month public engagement process to prepare the city for a major industrial boom — without the bust.

Redesign Rupert is in partnership with the City, Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest and the project has also received funding from industry. The co-director of CDI, Marleen Morris, came to Prince Rupert for the launch from Prince George, where the head office is based.

“We see that (having industry involved in the process) as a real strength because that means that people care enough about making a future happen that they’re putting resources into it. It actually enhances the partnership,” Morris said.

CDI is a research institute at the University of Northern British Columbia and works with communities in the province with a resource based economy. The institute engages with community members to improve living conditions and to help establish a more diverse economy that can weather the ever changing world markets.

“What we are going to be doing is looking for opportunities to diversify and grow the economy and build social networks, capacity and resilience,” Morris said.

The institute was established in 2004 and since then it has been involved with more than 40 communities on over 70 projects.

One of the Redesign Rupert partners, Community Futures, an organization that encourages new businesses in the community, sees this an opportunity to get an informed outside perspective on how to create a legacy for the city.

“We’re still in control of our own destiny,” said the general manager, John Farrell, at the open house. “We needed a third party that at one part holds the trust of the community. CDI has a track record of doing this work with other small communities.”

In the first phase of the project, CDI held small group meetings with about 20 stakeholders and community leaders. In March, Morris will return to Prince Rupert and proceed with the interviews involving First Nations, business, industry government and community organizations to discuss what opportunities the city already possesses. In April, CDI plans to do a community mapping process where they will work with the public to flesh out the current state of the city’s assets and build from there.

A similar process was done in Clearwater. CDI worked with the community for three years to determine what its assets were and how it could develop opportunities to make the area thrive.

Clearwater focused on being age-friendly for its residents and as a tourist destination. Businesses focused on being more wheel chair accessible with automatic door openings, the city built wider walkways, a new transportation network and restaurants printed bigger font on their menus.

“In three years they leveraged more than $1.5 million dollars into looking at seniors’ initiatives,” Morris said.

Redesign Rupert is an 18-month contract, but Morris said that doesn’t mean it will end there. “We’ll be here to help the transition for as long as it takes.”