Tillsonburg gets provincial recognition for innovative Facade Improvement Program

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Tillsonburg’s downtown facade improvement program has been turning a lot of heads lately - not just local property owners, but at the provincial level as well.

The program, which has its roots in the town’s Community Improvement Plan, was recently recognized by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) with the Bricks and Mortar Award at its spring awards gala.

Each year, consultants, practitioners, communities and organizations involved in all aspects of BIA renewal are invited to submit case studies to OBIAA that showcase innovation and vision.

“The Bricks and Mortar Award is given to recognize excellence in streetscaping and public realm improvements,” said Virginia Armstrong, Tillsonburg BIA Executive Director, in a media release. “It’s one of 11 possible awards given out each year.”

The Tillsonburg BIA submission was evaluated by judges from across the province on the following criteria:

Innovation: Does the project or program offer an innovative or unique approach to a BIA management or development challenge?

Replication: Does the entry present a solution, process or idea that others could modify for their BIA circumstances?

Representation: Is the project or program inclusive? Were partnerships employed to get the job done? Was the community involved in the effort?

Outcome: Was the impact of the effort significant? How was it measured? Was it compared to an initial goal? Were the goals and objectives reached?

“Tillsonburg’s submission exemplified innovation and creativity in the Bricks and Mortar category,” according to OBIAA Awards Chair Marty Williams.

“The Facade Improvement Program has been a great success in Tillsonburg,” said Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar. “It’s rewarding to see so many of our community’s heritage buildings restored and their architectural details preserved for another generation.”

Both the Town of Tillsonburg and the Tillsonburg BIA contributed equally to the program over the last four years, with property owners eligible to receive up to $10,000 in matching grants for qualifying improvements.

“The ultimate intent of the program is to help ensure that Tillsonburg’s downtown area remains vibrant,” said Facade Improvement Committee chair Geno Vanhaelewyn. “Each application that comes in is thoroughly reviewed by the committee to ensure that the proposed improvements are appropriate for the surrounding area, and the architecture of the building. We consider the style of the windows, the signage, the condition of the brick, etc.”

To date, more than 12 properties have been improved through the program, with at least 4-6 new projects expected to begin this summer.

“There has been a lot of uptake on the facade improvement program so far,” said Armstrong, “and given the breadth of new incentives outlined in the Community Improvement Plan, we expect there will continue to be significant re-investment happening downtown in the days and months to come.”

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