I will admit to being a little disappointed with this article in today’s Standard – while the positive comments about the new Performing Arts Centre were great to read, the article’s tone was pretty negative when it talked about the revitalization of St. Catharines’ Downtown.
The author states, quite boldly in fact, that there is no firm plan for the Downtown. That is simply untrue. It’s called the Creative Cluster Master Plan, and it’s the blueprint that was developed by the City and stakeholders as a roadmap for where the downtown was headed. It’s a roadmap in progress, I might add – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we need to be prudent with taxpayer money, so all of the investment required to see it through has not been put in place yet. Much of it, however, has.
The public investment in the downtown is on a scale unprecedented in our city’s history, both from the federal and provincial governments. The private investment is beginning to take hold and ramp up. Residential development, a key component to building a more livable, walkable downtown, is taking hold. The Wine Route is slated to come online in the next few years down the middle of the district. All of these are very positive steps in the right direction.
It would be wonderful if this could all happen tomorrow. But it won’t, and we need to be patient. We also need to stop speaking as if the downtown is a horrible place – it most definitely isn’t, and I have had no qualms bringing my family down there at all times of the day to support the awesome restaurants and stores that have taken root down there. I have friends who live in the downtown core, with families to boot, and they see nothing wrong with going out with their young children. It’s not the place it’s portrayed to be by some naysayers in the community.
Is it perfect? Of course not. Are there still issues? Yes, and there are likely to be issues for a long time to come. But that is no different than in any other city’s downtown core, and I’m happy to say that we deal with those issues using solutions from all the people who come to the table to offer them.
Take a walk in the downtown if you can over the holidays. Stop in at one of the pubs, restaurants or cafes for a bite to eat or a drink, or head to the market or one of the boutique stores on St. Paul, and ask yourself if downtown is what you remembered since the last time you were there? I’ll challenge you to stop by on a more regular basis as well – because you’ll notice, just like I and many like me have, that downtown is changing, and it’s changing for the better.