Waterfront on cen­tre stage

At cham­ber, mayor dis­cusses tap­ping into city’s ‘unique and nat­u­ral as­set’

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - FRONT PAGE - JA­SON MILLER THE INTELLIGENCER

A re­newed fo­cus on all things waterfront floated to the top of the mayor’s ad­dress to the Belleville and Dis­trict Cham­ber of Com­merce Wed­nes­day.

Mayor Taso Christo­pher said waterfront de­vel­op­ment will be cen­tre stage at a re­treat here next month, where city staff will present the broad strokes of how to bet­ter cap­i­tal­ize on what the mayor deems an “un­tapped unique and nat­u­ral as­set.”

He talked to the gath­er­ing about warm­ing up to the waterfront vi­sion and hinted at the mantra of “Build Belleville waterfront edi­tion.”

“We will be fo­cus­ing on our waterfront ini­tia­tives,” he said of the aim of the re­treat. “We will be look­ing for part­ner­ship to beau­tify the waterfront.”

Christo­pher also gave the au­di­ence a bird’s eye view of the cur­rent state of the city in terms of growth and in­fra­struc­ture ad­vance­ments, such as the third phase of down­town re­vi­tal­iza­tion and other road re­newals ear­marked for 2017.

Af­ter his speech, the mayor told me­dia staff will be look­ing for de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties along the Moira River and Bay of Quinte.

“We need to part­ner with the com­mer­cial world to bring those waterfront de­vel­op­ments,” Christo­pher said.

Dur­ing the last re­treat coun­cil was introduced to the idea of restau­rants and other forms of en­ter­tain­ment and recre­ational de­vel­op­ments.

“We had a re­treat and it took us 16 hours to fi­nally get all of coun­cil on board to fi­nally re­al­ize and em­brace that we’re on the Moira River and we’re on the wall­eye fish­ing capital,” Christo­pher said. “We need to take our en­er­gies to the waterfront and look at the pri­vate sec­tor and the com­merce sec­tor to part­ner with us and get some de­vel­op­ments down there.”

He said since the last cen­sus, “the city has un­der­gone a 2.6 per cent growth rate in­crease. One of the largest growth rates within a city our size any­where in the prov­ince.”

With the un­em­ploy­ment rate hov­er­ing around 5.2 per cent, the mayor said the city has one of the low­est un­em­ploy­ment rates in the prov­ince.

“More than 100 new busi­nesses have been started in this re­gion over the last 11 months,” Christo­pher said.

He noted the ben­e­fit of hav­ing rel­a­tively af­ford­able hous­ing with the av­er­age house sale price be­ing roughly $293,000, up from $229,000 in March 2016.

“The con­struc­tion sec­tor is very busy,” he said.

Last year the city did $121 mil­lion in con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity, and Christo­pher said the build­ing depart­ment has recorded $24 mil­lion in ac­tiv­ity to date this year, which in­cludes 64 new res­i­den­tial units and re­de­vel­op­ment of the for­mer Zellers site.

In 2017, the mayor is an­tic­i­pat­ing the re­de­vel­op­ment of Proc­tor and Gam­ble, Van­tage Foods, a new ho­tel at the west­erly tip of Bell Boule­vard and other ware­hous­ing ex­pan­sions.

The city’s growth trails be­hind the 4.6 per cent provin­cial av­er­age record in the 2016 cen­sus.

He un­der­scored other de­vel­op­ments such as the erect­ing of three new fire sta­tions, in­clud­ing the new ur­ban head­quar­ters and two new ru­ral sites, within 18 months.

“This is an un­prece­dented achieve­ment,” he said.

Christo­pher said coun­cil is ped­alling ahead with ac­tive trans­porta­tion ini­tia­tives with on road cy­cling lanes and multi-use paths.

JA­SON MILLER/THE INTELLIGENCER

Mayor Taso Christo­pher talks about a re­newed fo­cus on waterfront de­vel­op­ment dur­ing the Belleville and Dis­trict Cham­ber of Com­merce break­fast Wed­nes­day.

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