..and when the sun rises again tomorrow, we'll see how far we've come ...

..and when the sun rises again tomorrow, we'll see how far we've come ...

... just to remind myself why I'm doing this ...

Depending on our personalities, the world can be a crowded place or a very lonely one. For those who seek comfort in numbers, there is no shortage of hangers on, but for those who avoid that circus, keeping thier own counsel can leave them feeling quite alone and disengaged from the mad place we call home. Life is a trade off and most of us choose how we live it.

For me, I'd rather work things out as best I can, using my own thoughts and feelings to sort things out. Following the crowd has never been a temptation to me, but that has its price, one that I'm totally comfortable with every day I get to stand up and be the person I aspire to be. When I sometimes lose track of who that is, I come here to remember, to reconnect and to resume my quest.

These posts are a reflection of some of what matters to me and it's a privilege to have the opportunity to collect these thoughts as they form in my head, as they prepare the way for my life, as it evolves from one day to the next. They re-inspire me when things seem to be floating about, with no particular aim or purpose, and it does happen from time to time.

So, today I had these thoughts that I think are worth writing down for the future me to look back on when I need to ...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

here's a plan that could transform our Downtown into a bee-hive...

A couple of thoughts for consideration as part of tonight’s event at the ‘Park’.

First, I think Cobourg tourism should be considered as the by-product of economic
efforts as opposed to being “THE” economic effort. Retail opportunities ebb and flow
with great irregularity and are uncertain because of continuous expansions in the
periphery. Energies and resources would be better used to develop essential services
that bring with them continuous and repeat activity that is dependable in the
delivery of patrons day in and day out.

Second, our downtown needs to be the focus of the business life of the town. It
needs to be where the financial sector gathers, or assembles by way of locating in
close proximity to each other, making the trip into downtown a necessary and
worthwhile objective, and one that is repeated daily and often, and by a variety of
patrons. Tourism is a collection of impulse actions to roam and wander somewhat
aimlessly, with little specific purpose and a low level of economic certainty. It’s a
tentative economic producer, whereas financial activities are never-ending and
dependable stimulators. We have real physical opportunities to assemble a “one-stop
financial centre” in the downtown, and its patrons are a strong influence on
economic health overall. We CAN have our own Bay Street right in our downtown.
The employment opportunities would be an asset and reduce the dependence on
retail jobs that are considered to be of a lower economic benefit. There is a
perception that Cobourg is home to a monied community and that idea should be
fully explored for the opportunities it could offer, if it is a correct perception.
“Financial centres” create a palpable buzz in their immediate surroundings and are
home to some very active people, owners, operators and staff alike. We can see that
now in our financial group in the downtown. The competition in that sector makes
this idea of a ‘centre’ a very attractive one, because they can both feed off each
other’s activities and provide bigger potential customer bases to all. Healthy
competition enhances the potential for success.

Just for example, consider this 'vision'. The block containing Bank of Montreal and
The Bargain Store is presently one storey. It can be made into a 3-storey structure
without negatively impacting anything. The space presently occupied by The Bargain
Store would be subdivided into smaller year-round market-oriented shops to support
the Farmers’ market across the street for the summer months and continue to serve
that demand all year round. Local (downtown) residency could arguably become
much more attractive by the boost derived from the availability of fresh food all
year. The second floor would become a “financial centre” occupied by all the various
financial offices now spread throughout the town plus legal offices and even real
estate offices. Patrons would have a compelling reason to come into downtown as
would any visitors to that sector. Access would be off the second level of a fully
accessible 3-level parking facility (these patrons would almost exclusively arrive by
their own vehicles) between King and Covert Streets with elevators at both ends for
street-level access as well. The third floor above the financial mall would be home to
a good-quality restaurant with an outdoor ‘patio’ facing south, overlooking Victoria
Hall and the waterfront beyond. At present, the buildings to the east and west of this
space are both 3 floors. Access to the restaurant would be from the third level of
parking and from the street by the elevators that also service the financial mall. The
‘patio’ would be a year-round feature, enclosed for the winter months and open air
during the summer. Town Hall and Fire Hall theatres are across the street, while the
main street and all the other entertainment venues are within a short stroll, and
waterfront access is steps away. The north side of this parking facility would back
onto more commercial facilities that should be built on Covert Street, both sides of
which have potential that is being “wasted” now. Covert Street is one of the most
underutilized resources in the downtown and has the potential of almost doubling the
active commercial capacity we have now. We can’t create more space, but we can
recover what’s already there and not being used to its best potential.

The C.A.U.S.E. report that’s collecting dust has some good ideas in it and those need
to be reintroduced for this exercise. Unfortunately, talking about these things is just
about as far as it gets. The property owners have to be the point of ignition on this
and pretty well any other significant initiative for the downtown. Without their
commitment, little will actually come out of the exercise. An idea such as the one I
present above takes money and if there is the certainty of a return on such
investment on their part, it can be accomplished, with the blessing of the town. In so
many of these projects by the town, it states that consultation will be held with
various groups, including the “stakeholders”. So many of the property owners are
only that, rather than “actively involved stakeholders” who seem to be acting as if
they have no stake in anything other than property. We’re not looking at heritage
issues here because there are no heritage buildings involved in this idea. Looking at
the Scotia Bank building as a very real and physical example, this idea can actually
provide an excellent opportunity to recreate a more suitable addition to the street
scape than what we have now. As for the idea of bringing together like-businesses in
one convenient area, there is wisdom in being close to your competition and the
businesses involved are well aware of the benefits of being located close to each
other.

Recapping, no matter what the economy, ultimately, tourism is a “crapshoot”. Retail
is “uncertain and vulnerable” to too many factors. Steady repeat traffic with a
predictable purpose is the strongest base you can have on which to build a healthy
town core that’s not depending on the whims and vagueries of economic fluctuations
that seriously affect the viability of a tourism-based economy. Plans and processes
are just the 'whats and hows' but mean little if there's no action to carry them
through. All that’s actually needed is a “commitment” to act and a far-sighted plan
on which to carry out that action. If you sit back and really think about it, the idea
above is just one good example of such a plan.

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