Revitalizing Downtown Hope

Planning for a Resilient Future

*originally posted on Etsi-BC News

For thousands of people who travel to and from the Lower Mainland, the community of Hope, located at the junction of four major highways, is a regular stopping point for information, food, fuel, and accommodation. As a new plan to revitalize Hope’s downtown rolls out, visitors and residents are discovering how much more the community has to offer while stimulating its tourism economy.

“Revitalization of the downtown was identified in Hope’s 2021-2026 Economic Development Strategy as key to long-term economic success for the community,” says Sarah Brown, Operations Manager for Advantage Hope, the destination marketing organization, and economic development office for the community. “After many years of trying to get more people downtown, there was never a long-term strategy done by an objective source.”

“The way the highways loop around, many people don’t know we have a downtown if they haven’t driven into Hope before,” adds Brown. “We also have a large service and hospitality sector that meets the needs of residents and visitors all year long. It’s vital we continue to grow this sector.”

With support from the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) through its Building Economic Capacity pillar, consulting firm MVH Urban Planning and Design was contracted to engage businesses, residents, First Nations, and other community partners in creating the Hope Downtown Revitalization Strategy. The project is a partnership between Advantage Hope, the Hope Chamber of Commerce, and the District of Hope who came together as the Downtown Action Group in 2009.

Advantage Hope provided a cash contribution to the project and is applying for funding from the Federal Tourism Relief fund to support tourism initiatives identified in the report.

Community Members Highly Engaged

To ensure awareness of the project among community members, it was widely promoted through digital media campaigns, the Hope BC Bulletin Board, community newsletters, mail-outs, event posters and newspaper ads. This led to two workshops in April and June 2023 where over 40 community members shared their thoughts and opinions about downtown.

Those who could not attend could complete a downtown Health Survey and an Opportunities and Challenges Map and discuss their thoughts with Advantage Hope members and the consultants. Input was also provided by Community Futures Sun Country, Communities in Bloom, the Chawathil and Yale First Nations, municipal staff, and other stakeholders.

“Everyone who participated in this research phase was highly engaged, helping to guide the planning process and enabling us to pivot as needed,” says Brown.

Ideas Turn into Action

The final report summarized input from all stakeholders and outlined 17 strategies and 15 action items to address downtown revitalization. Strategies include transforming Hope’s highway access from a bypass to a destination route, building on the Hope brand, streetscaping, improvements to older buildings and infrastructure, safety improvements, and a more culturally oriented environment.

One of the first action items addressed is the installation of a new gateway sign on 6th Avenue, and directional signage to a more vibrant and inviting downtown. The community will continue to hold signature events such as its biennial wood carving Championship, November Fog Fest and Christmas light tours with new elements, and additional events are being created to take place in the off seasons. Memorial Park, considered a rare gem in the downtown will have more seating, lighting, and First Nations murals and storytelling.

Laurel Douglas, CEO of ETSI-BC points out that, “The District of Hope has been impacted by several events, from flooding and fires to COVID travel restrictions while continuing its efforts to revive the downtown. We’re pleased to have supported this initiative to help guide the community to a prosperous and sustainable future.”