Downtown needs buy in from citizens
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.