New PADBID executive director excited about area’s possibilities

Downtown Prince Albert is pictured. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Carolyn Carleton to take the reins from Rick Orr on June 23

A long time advocate of Prince Albert’s downtown is stepping aside to let some new faces advocate for the business district.

Rick Orr, who served as Ward 2 councillor before becoming the Prince Albert Downtown Business Improvement District (PADBID) executive director, has made the decision to retire. He’ll leave PADBID on June 23.

His replacement has already been chosen, and for those in the business and arts communities, it’s a very familiar face.

Carolyn Carleton will be the next executive director of PADBID. Carlton comes to PADBID after spending six years working at the Chamber of Commerce, including standing in as acting CEO while the board has looked for a suitable replacement for ousted CEO Kelvin Pankiw.

“I’m very excited,” Carleton said. “I’ve taken lots of training in destination marketing, so this is something I’ve been interested in for a long time. I’m excited to get started.”

Aside from her work with the Chamber of Commerce, Carleton has an arts background and is a member of the Prince Albert Council for the Arts. She also understands the situation faced by small mom-and-pop type entrepreneurs, because her husband is self-employed.

“Almost every business downtown is a small, self employed, independently owned business. That’s a benefit she brings, somebody who knows where you’re coming from and the challenges we face,” said Stacy Coburn, the PADBID board chair.

Coburn was very pleased that Carleton would be joining as the next executive director.

“Her knowledge of City Hall and the people at City Hall is certainly going to benefit us,” Coburn said.

“She has a lot of experience planning events, she’s taken many courses on revitalizing downtowns, so I think she brings a lot to the table of what we need at this point to see happen in our downtown core. She’s definitely going to have the experience. She’s vibrant and outgoing and passionate about it, and that’s what we need right now, somebody that’s going to bring the passion back.”

Orr will stay on with PADBID for a few weeks to help Carleton acclimatize to her new role. He will still provide support where he can, and said he will still be a passionate advocate for the downtown area. Orr is confident Carleton is the right person for the job.

“She brings a new vigour and a new passion to the role,” he said.

“I think it’s going to be uplifting to have someone that has an artistic background, a Chamber background and the knowledge to work with other groups. The future is all about partnerships, and Carolyn will be an excellent person to work with other groups and organizations to champion the downtown. She’s a perfect fit for the job.”

Carleton is coming to the organization at a pivotal time.

The University of Saskatchewan will be opening up inside the Forestry Centre in the coming years. At the same time, the city is planning a major project to replace underground infrastructure along Central Avenue. They hope to begin in 2019, and the project could take years to complete.

Once finished, though, a new streetscape will be installed, and PADBID is confident it will help revitalize the area.

“We’ve got a few struggles coming ahead for sure, and I think Carolyn is one of the people who is going to help tackle that,” Coburn said.

“It’s gong to be a little bit of an interruption downtown, but without a doubt, a needed improvement, landscaping and the beautification of downtown will happen from this. We have to get through that big dig process, then look at other areas we can tackle, bringing business downtown, enticing different events and people to participate downtown.”

Orr agreed that the coming years will be challenging, but the payoff will be a big one.

“The short-term pain it’s going to take to revitalize Central Avenue and fix the infrastructure is going to be offset by an amazing opportunity for businesses to expand and new businesses to come in,” he said.

“I do challenge council, though, they’re going to have to put special incentives in to help new businesses take over vacant land and update buildings. It’s time for renewal, and the only way that will happen is if council sees the direction of providing the proper incentives like other communities are doing to revitalize the downtown.”

Carleton believes she is up for the challenge. She’s already reached out to communities elsewhere in Canada who have gone through a major project in their downtown core to find out how they did it, and how they balanced the need for construction with the need for existing businesses to thrive. She also spoke about the vision of the board to transform the district into a historical, cultural and arts area.

“I’m very exited about that possibility and the changes that are happening between the U of S, the new streetscape and everything they are planning down there,” she said.

“I think I get to walk in at a very cool time. I get to walk in when a lot of stuff is happening and I’m excited to help make it happen.

“I’m excited about the possibility. I know it’s going to be difficult, and everybody sees things differently but I’m excited. I’ve done a lot of challenging things in my life, so I can handle it. I’m up for the challenge.”