This is the speech I gave at the BIA-ACO all-candidates’ meeting, Wednesday evening. The question all candidates had to answer was, “What is your vision to ensure that Downtown Collingwood thrives as a vital economic and cultural part of our community?” We had two minutes to respond. Here’s what I said:
For our downtown to thrive, it needs people. The town can help bring them here. But it is up to the businesses to draw them in.
People come to any downtown for two main reasons: ambiance and experience.
Collingwood already has good ambiance. We have a beautiful heritage district with attractive streets and buildings. But we should dress up Pine and St. Marie Streets more, and make our alleys and laneways more attractive and useful.
The ambiance will further improve when the waterfront development gets restarted and extends the commercial district right to the water’s edge.
Developing our harbour should be a main priority for the new council. A redeveloped harbour will be a significant economic resource. We should even consider a marina and a shuttle service to bring visitors into the downtown. Boaters and other users are all potential customers.
I also want to investigate restoring the former bingo hall as a community resource. It could become a performance space, an indoor market, or a gallery. That would further beautify our downtown.
As for experiences, we need new events and activities that draw both locals and visitors downtown. The Elvis Festival has proven good for this and has brought us great publicity. But we need others.
Events and culture should be treated as economic issues. We have engaged a new marketing and economic development director to craft strategies for pursuing cultural and event tourism.
We should also promote local food. We could make Collingwood the focus of a regional local food festival.
We should consider turning at least one downtown block into a pedestrian mall for part of the summer, with activities, vendors, buskers and public art.
Working with the BIA and our new business development centre, I believe we can make Collingwood’s downtown even more attractive and exciting than it already is.
And here is my wrap-up statement:
I’ve been the council representative on the BIA board for the last four years. I have enjoyed working with the board and helping set goals and directions for the downtown this term.
We have a great downtown, a beautiful downtown that is the heart of this community. But we cannot rest on our past. We need to work with the BIA, with our new marketing and economic development director, with our heritage groups and with council to keep it thriving, to keep it vital and keep attracting people.
If re-elected, I will help accomplish these goals next term.