Seaforth back alley project shortlisted for provincial awards
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron East’s ambitious project to keep Seaforth’s Main Street businesses busy during extensive construction has been recognized by the Economic Developers Council of Ontario.
Downtown Seaforth’s Back Alley Initiative, which included the “Looking Out My Back Door” video that was released last year, has been named a finalist in the Council’s annual awards. The project has been nominated in the categories of Rural Excellence and Innovative Community Resiliency.
The Seaforth project is facing some competition, going up against projects from city centres as big as Mississauga, Oakville, York, Vaughan, Hamilton and Toronto.
This year, the Council received over 100 entries from communities and organizations from across Ontario, according to its website. The winners will be chosen in February when the Council hosts its annual conference over several days.
In an interview with The Citizen, Huron East Economic Development Officer Jan Hawley said it was a tremendous honour to be nominated in two categories, especially considering the level of competition being posed by larger city centres.
Hawley said that while she brainstormed the concept, it was members of her team and other collaborators who helped turn the vision into a reality. One of her major collaborators was Dr. Chris Cooper, the creator of Rediscovering Canada Television and several other entities, with whom she has worked on a number of projects stretching back nearly a decade.
The project began when Hawley knew Seaforth was facing a year of extensive main street construction that would make it difficult to access many of the town’s businesses. She endeavoured to create a program to clean up the town’s alleys and beautify them, encouraging merchants to welcome customers through the back door of the shops, bypassing any challenges connected to the construction.
She worked within her budget, bringing on private investors and leveraging grants to make the project a reality, saying the entire project ended up costing over $30,000 to complete.
The Seaforth alley beautification has included the painting of a mural with another on the way, as well as other art installations and general improvements along the alleys.
The video, produced by Cooper, brought together Seaforth Main Street merchants and construction crews to parody Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Looking Out My Back Door” with a local twist.
She said she was very happy with the finished product and has heard great things since its premiere, which was a virtual red carpet affair. The video can be found on Rediscovering Canada Television’s Facebook page.