Down­town needs buy in from cit­i­zens

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - NEWS - W. BRICE MCVICAR THE SKINNY

It’s an odd, but wel­comed, sight. It seems like it’s been for­ever since you could drive in the city’s core with­out be­ing rerouted, stopped and watch­ing for con­struc­tion equip­ment as the muchdis­cussed and de­bated down­town re­vi­tal­iza­tion pro­ject was un­der­way. But, this week, con­struc­tion crews put the fin­ish­ing touches on the pro­ject, took down the traf­fic re­di­rect­ion signs, packed up the py­lons and waved good­bye to Belleville’s core.

Yes, the work is done.

So, now the ques­tion re­mains whether or not the city got what it needed to have a new, re­ju­ve­nated down­town.

The easy an­swer, of course, is yes. There’s no deny­ing down­town looks bet­ter to­day than it has in the past two or three decades. The sight­lines are bet­ter, the streets look cleaner and ev­ery­thing has an air of new­ness to it. Sure, that’s be­cause the con­struc­tion has just wrapped up and ev­ery­thing’s still look­ing fresh and sharp, but the vis­ual im­pact of the changes down­town can’t be de­nied.

But, in re­turn­ing to that ques­tion of whether we got what we needed... time will tell.

Down­towns across On­tario are hav­ing to find new ways to keep them­selves vi­tal as big box stores and shop­ping cen­tres con­tinue to at­tract shop­pers and con­sumers away from the small, mom- and- pop shops that down­towns are known for and, re­ally, should be known for.

The city — in terms of city coun­cil and the mu­nic­i­pal­ity — has done its part for push­ing down­town ahead, giv­ing it that needed boost to see that it can con­tinue to grow and pros­per. But that’s where the city’s in­volve­ment should end. The rest re­lies on the pub­lic and pri­vate in­vest­ment.

We’re al­ready see­ing new de­vel­op­ment in the core with the ren­o­va­tions to Cen­tury Vil­lage and the new con­dos be­ing erected on the old Quinte Ho­tel site, new busi­nesses com­ing into the core and that re­ju­ve­nated hope that down­town will be stronger and busier.

None of that hap­pens, though, with­out fur­ther in­vest­ment. Not city money, though, but money from those busi­nesses and de­vel­op­ers who be­lieve there is a fu­ture in the core. What that fu­ture con­sists of, though, is any­one’s guess, re­ally. More hous­ing? We’re get­ting that, but how much could be too much? We need more than res­i­dents liv­ing here, we need ser­vices and stores read­ily avail­able to those peo­ple who call the core home. There’s al­ways been talk of a need for a gro­cery store in the down­town and that need will only grow as more peo­ple move in.

Walk­ing along Front Street al­ways presents a mixed bag of va­cant and oc­cu­pied store fronts and to­day is no dif­fer­ent. There are still op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­di­vid­u­als to start a new busi­ness, and there will, ob­vi­ously, be res­i­dents who may use that ser­vice or store.

The city and city coun­cil has done its part to give the down­town its needed facelift, now it’s ev­ery­one else’s turn to make sure that in­vest­ment doesn’t go to waste.

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