ADDRESS by MAYOR WENDY LeBLANC to the ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING of the CARLETON PLACE B.I.A.
January 23, 2014January is absolutely the right time of year to hold an AGM as the events of the past year and the optimism of a new year are still fresh in everyone’s mind. You know, working towards creating a vibrant downtown was one of my election campaign promises; in fact, looking over the literature from the past election, there were a number of current Council members with the same vision, as well as, of course, the members of the BIA and its executive. And now, here we are three years and a lot of dedicated work on the part of many people later, and I’d say we’re well on our way. One of the significant changes that has occurred in the past three years is the increase in the profile of the BIA in the community. This is, of course, difficult to measure and I can’t give you any statistics to verify that statement. But, the busy-ness of the downtown core, the activity that takes place there, the growth in new businesses, the buzz about restaurants, ladies clothing shops, consignment shops, boutiques and more all point to a revitalizing downtown. Indeed, the number of new businesses in the downtown has grown at an amazing rate in the past few months and Cathie McOrmond reported to me recently that the occupancy rate is the highest in at least a decade. This is sure sign – a measuring stick, a benchmark - that business people have faith in the current business climate and, more importantly, in the potential of this area of town. How did this change come about? What road did we follow to arrive at an increasingly robust downtown. Let’s have a look at the path I think was followed:
- Certainly, there’s the snowball effect; one business choosing to start-up or relocate encourages others to do the same. Clusters of attractive shops not only attract customers, but they attract other business people, too. Another snowball effect that we are seeing is the increasing numbers of businesses open Sundays, Mondays, and certain evenings as well. Here’s my favourite cluster of shops … and supporting them is Grahams, Dacks, Wisteria, Brushstrokes for accessories of all kinds.
- The great selection of restaurants meets the needs of families, young and older adults, ladies who shop, all tastes and budgets.
- The community events sponsored by the BIA or in partnership with other community groups are well known across the area.
- Community gathering places are important to the vibrancy of any downtown. I am particularly proud of the Market Square and the majority of Council who supported this venture; the vision for this important development came from a number of community-minded citizens and members of Council. The outstanding support of the BIA made it happen. Congratulations. And, I am pleased to report to the members of the BIA, that Council has now sold the property adjacent to the Market Square to Parkview Homes (vis.: Cinnamon Suites Condos), a quality builder who paid full asking price and requested no concessions from the Town. It’s often tempting to jump at the first offer, but I am glad that Council held firm on this piece of property. The new development will see ground floor commercial and residential on the upper floors, echoing the standards of the main street. At the opposite end of Beckwith Street is the lovely little park filling the space occupied by the old firehall/youth centre building, to be completed this spring.
- Beautification – The partnership between the BIA, the Town and Carleton Place in Bloom has given the community the exceptionally attractive beautification projects – virtually year-round - that enhance the streetscapes and are a draw to the downtown. Attractive window displays add to the beautification efforts.
- Customer service – I’ve spoken about this before, our downtown offers service that can’t be beat by franchises. Our independent business owners downtown go out of their way to provide exceptional personal service.
- People living in the downtown core – With two new projects on the horizon and one being completed and apartments above shops being renovated, more renters are considering the downtown as home base.
- Partnerships – BIA has formed strong partnerships with many groups in the community and we all know the mantra that together we’re better.
- BIA willing to try new events, new promotions, new vision
- Celebration of the heritage aspect – The façade improvement program, the walking tour, the heritage scan tour, the Roy Brown Museum, the Museum’s annual featured storefront…
- Cathie’s List of events
- BIA’s Active voice on Tourism, downtown initiatives, community development committee, etc. Here’s a slide showing a day in the life of your BIA manager!
- 11 vintage SLIDES of 77 Bridge Street