Posts Tagged ‘downtown’

Downtown is the Heart of My London

October 8, 2008

Dan Brown wants me to imagine that there’s no downtown London (“Is downtown the heart of your London?“; London Free Press; 2008/10/03). Well, I can’t.

No matter what we might do to it, it would always be there. Ignoring some peripheral extension like St. Thomas or Ingersoll is one thing. But the core? How do you forget about the smack-dab centre? And why would you want to, since it’s central location makes it the most easily accessible from everywhere?

Dan says that our current downtown is not the heart of the city for many residents. “They don’t venture downtown on a daily basis and wouldn’t be disturbed if it disappeared overnight. They’re tired of the stories about the downtown’s long death spiral. For many of them, downtown has been dying as long as they have been alive.”

That much, I can agree with. Compared to the downtown of my youth, today’s version is like the spot on an apple that, having been bruised and softened, is now slowly spreading inexoribly outwards.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. And it doesn’t mean having to continuously infuse the pockets of private business interests with taxpayer money. Better to acquire something substantive from such shared investment, something that’s useable by everybody, and something that’s unique enough from other communities that it becomes a tourist magnet as well.

Dan says “Imagine there’s no Victoria Park.”

Bad idea. Terrible idea! In fact, I think that’s the complete opposite of what ought to be done.

Start with a circle with it’s centre at Dundas and Richmond Street and extending outward for at least 6 city blocks. Now remove all the buildings, all the roads, etc. Colour it green. An enlarged Victoria Park. Now construct a road which circles the enlarged park and from which other roads radiate like spokes of a wheel.

Now we’ve got the beginning of something. And all it cost us was a bit of imagination.

More Metal Trees

August 29, 2008

In “Iron trees may help downtown branch out” (London Free Press; 2008/08/29) Paul Berton applauds the plan to erect more ugly metal trees in the downtown despite an admission that “some people are confused” and “some people dislike them” and “some people would rather see real trees.”

Why? Because “very few people can ignore them. That’s the real triumph.”

Well, if that were true, downtown business owners would be clamouring for more graffiti. But I don’t see that happening.

photoIf the Downtown Business Association wants to spend money improving it’s area of the city, I suggest that it install public drinking fountains like the ones in Victoria Park instead. Those at least would serve some practical purpose.

Downtown Decline: Myth or Reality

August 8, 2008

The work I am engaged in on a daily basis requires me to continually be surrounded by research on the City of London, both Historical and Contemporary. Being surrounded by all this information always brings up a vast amount of conversation and opinion in the work place.

Working with the people I do its hard to imagine or believe that there is anything positive about the City of London and its direction or rate of growth.

Working with one person, an American, that likes not a single thing about the city is often hard to swallow, but what is even a harder concept to deal with is how you can hate everything about a city but devote 2 + years of your life and the focus of your research on that city, but want to leave it right away and have no ties to it. Blows my mind.

Then there is another person who never has a positive outlook for anything in this city. He lives downtown but other than doing his research there (and drinking) he finds no use in the downtown area. He eat and sleeps downtown, but goes out of the core for everything else. Having devoted 4 years to the topic and a couple more to come he thinks that his opinions are all mighty and that his grim outlook of decline for the city core is the reality of how things are. I very much think that he has taken things to the extreme.

These two among many others believe that there is no hope for the downtown core. They may think they are the experts, but I think they are far from it.

Just like these two, many of the city councillors think that they are experts on the topic, but what really makes them the experts? They have done research, they have the degrees, but is that really what it take to be an expert on this subject?

I think not.

You can have all the education you want but if you don’t live in and around what you are talking about, if you haven’t done so for some time and don’t support the concepts and ideas that you preach how can you really call yourself an expert?

Far too many people support sustainable development, are against urban sprawl and are all for walkable communities but many if not most of these people do not “walk the walk”. Many of these people live on the outskirts of town, own 2 + cars, have never taken the bus in their life and only walk to their neighbors, they have never actually lived the lifestyle that they preach of.

Some people seem to think that gimmicks like a Pedestrian Mall (on Dundas between Wellington and Richmond), or a Light Rail Transit system bi-secting the city would solve problems and be the greatest thing for the city, sadly the people that think this (many councillors I might add) apparently do not live in the areas or use the services that they speak of.

A pedestrian mall in the downtown core would not solve problems but create a vast amount more, its not something that London actually needs or could support and its just one idea that has been tried in too many cities and has failed. As for the LRT, those that suggest that and support it, in my honest opinion, do not take the public transit on a regular basis, have not taken LRT in other cities and do not understand the dynamics of installing, operating and using a system like this especially in a city like London.

These are just a pair of example, of which there are many, of ideas that are out of the scope of helping the downtown core.

With all of this said there are a number of things that will help the downtown to grow and are not crazy or unattainable ideas.

Removing the walls from part of or all of the Rotary Reading Garden would open up a beautiful space to a greater number of people and make the spaces actually usable and make people aware that it is there. As of now it is hidden and even those who know of its existence fail to use it.

Bringing new positive development to the Richmond and York area of downtown, an area which has been neglected in the past and needs some help with rehabilitation. Currently there is a YOU cafe being worked on that will hopefully support this positive growth, but there needs to be other support in this area as well.

Then there is the issues of a grocery store in the downtown core. Many people complain that there already isn’t one, but what people fail to understand that a store of the size and type that people want must have a certain population to support it. This is something that is easily attainable for the downtown core in the coming years, people just have to be patient and move downtown. A grocery store (full scale) will happen, you just need to be patient.

These steps and others are being taken one at a time. New business are coming into the core (Moxies), business that will generate more people and that should bring more businesses with them.

Im not an idealist and I don’t believe things will be as great as some people think it will be, but its a downtown on the mend and despite what some people think, it is going somewhere.

Listen to the people who live in the downtown, those who use it on a DAILY basis and those who rely on its people and its services. Listen to those that use the public transport and not those who although they live in the downtown choose to drive to the suburbs to do their errands. Listen to those who live the downtown, not simple those that read about it and pretend that the reality of things are simply the words in a book. Listen to those that live downtown and want live there and not those that simple sleep there and would rather have nothing to do with the place.

The experts are not those that “lead” us, not those that do all of the research, the experts are those that live the downtown, those that are the downtown.

Changing Urban Perceptions

December 20, 2007

One of today’s articles (‘Prestige About Being in the City‘; National Post; 2007/12/20) quotes James McKellar (Academic Director; York Univ. School of Business). Here are some comments that I think are worth taking note of:


Zero-Waste Public Events

December 7, 2007

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A delegation representing TREA, Waste Free World and Home County appeared at the 2007/11/26 ETC meeting along with this written submission about reducing the volume of waste at all downtown special events.

ETC directed that recycling receptacles be installed “in all City-owned and managed facilities by June, 2008.”

So far, so good.

The matter of waste elimination was referred to administration “to report back on the viability of conducting a pilot project to commence in 2008, with appropriate resources and finances, and the requirement for an evaluation report once the pilot project is completed.”

Seems pretty obvious to me that the pilot project is viable. The devil’s always in the details. We’ll have to keep our eyes on this to make sure it gets a fair chance to prove it’s worth.

Events – 2007/11/29

November 29, 2007

Date: 2007/11/29 (Thursday)  
When: 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm  
Where: Central Library
251 Dundas Street
What: Backgammon  
The Forest City Backgammon Club . Join us every Thursday in the Central library’s 3rd-floor Arts department. New players welcome.

PAC Meteor

November 19, 2007

Push Me
After I saw Doug Rogers’ post, I thought that an actual poll might be instructive.

The question is: To clear space to build a Performing Arts Centre, where would you like to see a meteor strike London, Ontario?
Press the button to answer.

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(It’s a Secret)

November 9, 2007

Thanks to this evening’s A-Channel newscast for breaking the secret… City Hall is allowing free parking in certain designated downtown areas while the sinkhole is being fixed.

The kicker? There are no plans to provide signage to let anybody know that it’s not necessary to put money in the meters.

Only in Melonville ;(

Appended 2007/11/10 @ 6:00 a.m.

People who don’t have Internet access may feed meters that they don’t have to, but here’s your reward faithful reader for visiting this humble blog… scooped off the city website after some super sleuthing…

The City will offer two-hour free downtown parking seven days a week beginning today… Currently, there is two-hour free parking on Saturdays in an area bounded by Wellington, York, Ridout and Queens. The two-hour free parking will now be available every day. In addition, the city is extending the two-hour free zone east to Waterloo Street.”

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Another Downtown Parking Solution

November 2, 2007

The electric two-passenger City Carpromotes a socially responsible and more effective means of urban mobility.”

Vehicles can be stacked (like grocery shopping carts) to conserve parking space and to recharge. “The stack receives incoming vehicles and electrically charges them…users simply take the first fully charged vehicle at the front of the stack.”

Added bonus… the vehicle can park by “sideways translation.”

Solving Downtown Parking

October 31, 2007

A burst water main created a 10-metre by 10-metre sinkhole at the northeast corner of Wellington and Dundas streets today. Or at least, that’s what it was being blamed on. However, some onlookers were reported to have heard a strange buzzing sound…

sinkhole01.jpg sinkhole02.jpg
Nobody will recognize us is our Halloween costumes.”

2007/11/02 – The Gazette: Hole-y havoc in downtown core

TD-Canada Trust Sale

August 25, 2007

In “A Vote of Confidence” (London Free Press; Norman De Bono; 2007/08/24), local real estate officials gush over the sale of the TD-Canada Trust towers and parking garage that are at Dundas & Wellington.

Norman Spencer, a partner with the Montreal-based Redbourne Group purchaser, is quoted as saying that the company “plans to invest “several million dollars” in upgrades” and “will be looking at some cosmetic issues” as well.

Welcome to London, Norman.

Since you’re new here, and before you become infected by the local development community’s fixation on more parking, more parking… for automobiles, mind you…

Might I suggest that some bicycle storage lockers would be an excellent addition to the 333 covered/surface automobile parking spaces that you now own? Wouldn’t it be strategically sound to send a message to those of your new customers/employees who wisely use a friendlier mode of transportation, that you value their priorities as well?

Who knows? You might even influence our staid city to wake up.

BTW, do you happen to know Françoise and the boys over at Quebecor? Hopefully, you’ll do a better job managing your new local acquisition than what they’re doing ;(

Metal Trees

May 25, 2007

I’m all for public art. I’m even sometimes for things that are considered by others to be ridiculous. But metal trees, in the Forest City? SACRILEGE!

According to Ben Benedict (“Public art is going to the trees in London”; The Londoner; 2007/05/23), the LDBA dream “is to have as many as 82 metal trees in the downtown,” and they’re “16 feet tall and anywhere from six to eight feet wide.”

I don’t know how much all of this is going to cost (one of the trees is said to be costing $10,000), but it seems to me that we could find a much cheaper alternate solution and put the savings toward the purchase and planting of REAL TREES.

Tree Coat HangersSo, in the interest of being helpful, I’d like to propose that we scrap the proposed plan, and purchase 82 01 of these tree coat hangers (at only $700 each) instead.

hanging rope?I’d still go along with the purchase of the much more substantive metal tree for out front of City Hall though.

In fact, I might even consider supporting the purchase of some associated equipment 😉

Appended 2008/02/01:

The curiosity’s become too much to bear any longer. Given the absence of comments, why should this post be getting so many more hits than any other? I mean, you do see that it was posted in both the ‘Entertainment’ and ‘Humour’ categories? I wish that some of the serious things that I’m concerned about would attract so much attention 😦

Appended 2008/09/22:

Along with the blog’s move to it’s own new self-hosted digs, we simplified the category structure. That’s why this is now in ‘Lifestyle’ instead of ‘Entertainment’ and ‘Humour’.