Historic charm meets 2017 tech in Nelson, B.C.

The elements that make Nelson a great place for its residents also appeal to visitors and potential new residents

The architecture in downtown Nelson, B.C., contributes much to the city's appeal.

The architecture in downtown Nelson, B.C., contributes much to the city's appeal. — Marie Milner photo

With the arrival of warm spring weather in the Kootenay region, Nelson’s mayor, Deb Kozak, has done some appreciative walkabouts in Nelson’s downtown area to observe the activities on the streets. She’s happy to see that the downtown area is busy from early morning to late evening and that businesses are benefiting from the traffic.

We asked Kozak to give us a few words that she believes characterize Nelson, and her choices were “energetic, diverse, prosperous and safe.” Those characteristics surely owe as much to the nature and behaviour of Nelson’s residents as to the work of the city’s administrators, and we believe that both groups deserve pats on the back.

The elements that make Nelson a great place for current residents—including its strong arts and culture sector—also appeal to visitors, whether they’re tourists or potential new residents checking out Nelson’s offerings and attractions.

“There is a younger demographic that wants to move here,” Kozak said. “The population in the regional district has grown quite dramatically over the past 15 to 20 years.”

Marketfest, Nelson's evening farmers market, is an immensely popular summer amenity. — Photo courtesy Nelson City Hall

The out-of-reach real estate prices in the Vancouver area are creating an opportunity for small, inland communities to attract young people and their families. The City of Nelson is focused on providing quality infrastructure to provide excellent basic services for its residents: good water, good streets, good transportation, enhanced health care and education services, and superior recreational amenities and programs that consider the needs of children and young adults.

“And jobs, of course,” Kozak said. “People need to be able to work. When we invested in our broadband in the downtown core, it was a big step forward. We know that people in the tech community are moving here because we have the infrastructure that they can use, and they’re attracted to the lifestyle.”

Information sharing is a vital component in the City of Nelson’s success in making progress. The City’s urban design strategy for the Hall Street renewal project had input from the public, as did the planning for enhancement of the Railtown area.

“We’re trying to bring together the various sectors of the community—social, business and environment—putting forward the plan to all of them to arrive at understanding and common values,” said Kozak. “The various sectors are all passionate about what happens in Nelson. People share the same values of where they want to see the city go, but their paths to get there are different—and that’s okay. We just need to hear and understand each other, and we can come to solutions.”

Nelson's mayor, Deb Kozak (right), joins a visitor from Australia in enjoying Nelson's upgraded streetscape. — Photo courtesy City of Nelson

The city’s residents want to retain the city’s heritage character while moving forward with redevelopment and revitalization. Upgraded street furniture, sidewalk patios, signage, lighting, public spaces and parking can help meet the community’s contemporary needs while the distinctive, historic architecture continues to give the city its timeless charm.

As grants become available for further improvements in Nelson, the City has resident-approved plans in place to guide its projects.

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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