Bon Accord Town Council and Administration have been working hard at promoting this concept and making connections both politically and to other critical stakeholders on developing out the Park concept since it was created in 2012.
Marketing efforts, design and viability assessment has been aggressive for a project of this scope in such a small community.
With the business case of construction and operating costs currently underway and following up with another business case on the Development Ring ready to be implemented in 2015, Council and Administration are aligned to move the project along...if viable.
Stakeholder interest to date is positive overall with many corporations, associations, and other groups seeing this as an unique development with value for the community, the region and the province.
Overall the scope of the project from conception to opening is just under four years.
In 2012, when the Town was looking at focusing a niche market to attract development to Bon Accord, both Council and Administration determined a focus on tourism would be a viable sector to develop in the region. Complimentary to the oil & gas, agricultural and other tourism activity very near the Town's municipal boundary, tourism seemed the highest return on investment. It would also provide the residents with potential business attraction of new storefront activity to Bon Accord that would add value to the existing residents of the community and region.
Council introduced to the public at their annual Fall Open House in 2012 the concept in its first concept phase. A scale three dimensional model was constructed in house to communicate the concept along with documentation on the facility offerings and the development ring opportunity.
Over the following months into 2014 the Observatory Park Concept was marketed to existing and new stakeholders for the community and was mentioned in business and general news outlets in the Capital Region.
In March 2014, the Concept was showcased by Bon Accord at the Growing Rural Tourism Conference, in Camrose Alberta, as a idea to design a niche marketing and business attraction strategy for small rural communities.
The Concept was also submitted for a award with Economic Developers of Alberta and the Concept won in the Branding category.
In May of 2014, Bon Accord received support by Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation in development of a business case on the facility. To be completed in November of 2014, this business case provides the overview on construction costs, a five year operating plan and a preliminary architectural rendering of what the facility and five acre park space could look like.
Throughout 2014 the Town has been marketing the concept intensely, talking with landowners about a potential site and working strategy between the facility and the development ring and next steps.
Community engagement has been a vast component of the Park Concept. With the business case process, a comprehensive mail survey was sent out in October of 2014 to all rate payers within Bon Accord about the Park and other community services. Community group meetings have been conducted as well.
Another method of promotion has been through the annual Summer Skies Equinox event that Bon Accord hosts every third week of September. The Equinox is a event that the Town hosts to promote it's brand through dark sky appreciation and the arts.
This award-winning event, now finished it's third year in 2014, has been an event which, in its design and purpose will probably be celebrated annually in the future Observatory park space.
Into 2015, with budget approval, a second business case will be developed relating to the surrounding "Development Ring". This business case will look at viability of business attraction, proposed assessment value to Bon Accord, employment opportunities, residential and commercial viability and market attraction. The Town is looking to have this case completed by June of 2015, if not sooner, if approved in the 2015 budget.
With the two cases developed this will provide Bon Accord Council with the information it needs to decide on moving ahead on the project as a whole and how. It is the belief of Council and Administration to attempt to make the most educated decision possible when it comes to committing funds to such an extensive project.
Site selection will hopefully be finalized for June of 2015.
With site selection and business cases completed, a final decision by Council is slated to be made by no later August 2015 if the timeline works to this point.
Ground breaking based on all the completed criteria to this point would be April 2016 and the facility opening the following June.