Plans are underway that would see Station Street Park in downtown Duncan turned into a food court for local restaurants this summer.
The project is being established by the Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Area Society and is one of a number of initiatives to help local businesses through the COVID-19 crisis that are receiving $10,000 grants from the City of Duncan.
The city set up a grant program earlier this month in which it set aside $100,000 from its 2020 budget so that local organizations that are supporting businesses or individuals through the health crisis can apply for grants of up to $10,000.
City council gave the green light to the first three projects at its meeting on June 15, and denied two others.
The first approved is the food court, which will be called Station Street Common and located at Station Street Park.
The DDBIA submission said the intent of the food court is to increase the customer capacity of downtown restaurants while respecting the public health orders on reduced numbers of people for dine-in eating.
The second $10,000 grant was also for the DDBIA, and this one is for its “Buy Local” campaign that the association is championing along with the BIAs of Lake Cowichan and Chemainus, Economic Development Cowichan, Tourism Cowichan, Community Futures, the Duncan/Cowichan Chamber of Commerce, and the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce.
“We created an online directory to connect consumers to local businesses and services, as well as a marketing strategy to encourage consumers to shop local where possible,” the DDBIA’s submission said.
“The grant would enable us to reach more people and provide subsidized advertising to businesses that need promotion but can’t afford it, freeing up funds for job creation and other costs for our members.”
The third successful application for grant funding is the Cowichan Green Community Society’s plan for neighbourhood revitalization projects in Duncan.
“Through this funding, the project coordinator will support local neighbourhoods in creating their own, individual small neighbourhood projects such as boulevard and/or communal gardens, art spaces, food libraries, repair cafes or other projects as directed by the residents,” the society said in a statement.
“We will engage with a variety of volunteers and residents through the process to ensure collaborative and effective projects are completed.”
But a grant request for $10,000 from CNCLV Media to create instructional videos for local businesses to help them transition to operating under the new rules that have been implemented to deal with the health crisis was denied by council.
“Properly reopening our economy following closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be a vitally important process to get right,” the Duncan-based company said in their letter to the city.
“All small businesses in Duncan would benefit immensely from ready-made instructional videos to inform their customers of how to properly follow newly imposed guidelines, but simply can’t afford it.”
Coun. Bob Brooke said he likes the idea, but he supported denying the application because the company would benefit directly from it and, as CNCLV Video is solely owned, it doesn’t fit the grant program’s criteria that grants would only be considered from organizations.
“This is a sole proprietor so [the grant request] doesn’t qualify,” he said.
A grant request for $7,200 from the Cowichan Valley branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association to host “An Open Mind: Three Virtual Open House & Town Hall Events” was also denied.
The CMHA said the purpose of these events would be to provide public education about the association and its programs and services, and to increase understanding of, and compassion for, vulnerable populations in the Valley.
Coun. Jenni Capps said she appreciates the intent of the grant request, but there isn’t enough focus in the funding request on helping to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, which is the grant program’s intent.
The request was denied in a unanimous vote.