It’ll take a community to restore our core

Why should people living in the south end care about what happens on Dunlop St.? If your centre of commerce is Bryne Dr., what does it matter whether or not there’s a drug store in the downtown core? In fact, why would any of it matter unless you live downtown?

It matters a lot.

Take a look at communities with true downtowns. They have a soul, a centre, a gathering place, a vibrancy that spills out over the whole city.

In the mid 70’s, a group of downtown business people, battered by the mall development on Bayfield St., joined forces to create the Downtown Improvement Area. In those days, many stores were empty. Streetscapes, benches, lighting, fixtures all made a cosmetic difference. Activities continue to bring people downtown.

And now, the city’s planning department is working with business, industry and retail in a downtown revitalization plan that brings it all downtown, next to our beautiful waterfront. High density condo development, a parking garage, re-developed properties that are now vacant, closing some roads and opening others, building an entertainment venue, attracting a convention centre with retail shops and office space… City Planner Jim Taylor was excited Monday night as he presented option upon option to a packed house at City Hall.

He applauded the involvement of Barrie’s business and commercial community.

That’s what it’s going to take… the business community to strengthen its downtown ties; the development community to assemble land; the construction community to build; the finance community to help put it all together.

When we’re looking at potential there are always the “but…” people. These are the folks who offer little in the way of positive force, but are quick to be critical, to de-energize a project.

Barrie is on the edge of growth that should occur from within. Shops that face the water, theatre that brings people down to restaurants. Stores that stay open in the evening. People who live downtown. A grocery store (there were three on Dunlop St., along with three drug stores, in the 70’s).

Marina development, food courts and services for day water trippers will be flanked by convention goers who bring tremendous energy to city life.

We’re poised on the precipice of opportunity with a force of willing investors.

What an opportunity to rediscover our core!

Thanks, Jim, and your entire team, for your vision in putting this together. And now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and move forward, making reality out of potential.