Downtown SSM Is Drowning Faster Than the Underpass

I am an avid social butterfly and I enjoy the vibe of taking in a cup of java at my favorite downtown haunt. I enjoy chatting with the employees and regulars and just inhaling the energy………but it’s hard to do that these days for obvious reasons. Pun is intended and insinuated.

Now, as we slowly come out of hibernation, I am noticing literally a black and white scenario. The black is all the businesses that are closing because of this suspicious germ, and the white is the potential in regards to the patio scene. On most sunny days, I can be found at my Mane hang out enjoying my coffee, while sitting outside under the sun under an umbrella. The music in the background makes you feel like you are in Petoskey or Charlevoix Michigan.

These cities that have no industry per se, but manage to pull in hundreds of thousands of tourists a year ; why ? Well the answer is because they understand that a downtown core is for people and fun and entertainment. Even though are neighbors 2 the South have probably a ratio of 2:1 in regards to lawyers, they still manage to place more importance in potential than restriction. In Ontario, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission struggle to find a balance between safety and responsibility, and common sense.

If you want to sell a Cold One outside of your establishment here in the Soo ; well, you better get a second mortgage. From my understanding, the liability insurance is astronomical, and the restrictions and guidelines are geared to discourage such an undertaking. If you want confirmation, just ask any establishment downtown that is licensed outside, what kind of hoops they had to jump through and hassles had to be undertaken.

Now moving on ; of course this summer is an exception for retail and the such downtown, but for decades our downtown has been crumbling and is starting to resemble downtown Hades. The tumbleweed is going to be blowing harder than ever in the coming months. If you walk from block to block, you will literally see paper in the windows showing a business has closed, signs that say they are closing, and you will also see people that are lost and down on their luck. I can’t remember any other year where I have seen so many people looking hopeless like I do this year. It is sad and I feel for them.

 

The city in my opinion has done a good job in regards to finally getting Bay St down to the proper amount of lanes for a city of this size and they have also made some great strides in regards to Gore St. The closing of the resource center however was extremely disappointment but that I believe was a private issue and I don’t think the city could or should intervene as per.

NOW !!!! Priority #1 after C19 and the New Norm gets underway is to …………..NOT hire more out of town consultants, and not spend 12 months debating in council. The decision has to be made to make a complete overhaul of Queen St in the downtown core from Gore to Pim.

The first thing would be to go down to one lane of traffic have a paved bike lane on each side. This would enable businesses to utilize the space in front of their establishment for patios, live entertainment, and to showcase some of their wears. If the agreement that four lanes were not needed on Bay ; do the math…Queen St is the next street over.

Another suggestion would be for the direction of Queen to be reversed as to cater the tourists coming from the International Bridge and literally force them into our downtown local retail section. Any other blossoming city with a vibrant district, usually utilized this sneaky little tool. Showcase our community and when they get to their hotel, they will already know where they want to dine and shop. Another little trick would be to reduce the speed limit.

The Station Mall is a ghost town and within two years, in my opinion, will be on the chopping block. It’s going to get uglier there pretty soon, but that’s for another article another day.

Anyway, back on track ; every blossoming city has a mixture of industry, retail, and culture. We should be booming just by our location in the middle of Canada and on the American border, but we are not. Year after year, we tinker with this, and we hire consults for that, but it brings no fruition in the returns we should be getting.

I think their should be a business section, retail section, and a cafe/restaurant section. If you want to do some shopping downtown, wouldn’t it be easier to hit a few shops in a one block browse ? If you R looking for some vibe or energy, wouldn’t it be nice to walk and stroll by four or five restaurants or cafes in a row ? You can smell the food and hear the music and see the people enjoying life?

The way it is set up now is ………….well, you know set up. A restaurant, an office building, an empty building, a clothing store, a medical office, another empty building etc. There is no cohesion.

Another city planning and/or zoning issue is this ; I am of the thinking that people with addictions need the help and resources of the government and in no way am I shaming them. The issue is that on Queen, there are two or three establishments that they get their medicine from and it is right next to retail or restaurants. Would it not make sense to have those places of resource also in one fixed area ?

If I am working the front desk of a hotel and someone suggests a great place for a slice of pizza or a great cup of coffee ; I wonder how comfortable they will feel walking through those people who are sick and down on their luck and hanging around in front of the building they suggested to go to. That just doesn’t make sense as a tourist city.

It boggles my mind, how many sick people there are downtown these days and the C19 lockdown is in my opinion the main reasons in the surge……….but that is also for another day and another topic.

I forgot to mention one other great thing the city has done and that is the heavy lifting and work they did in getting the ferrochrome plant by Noront here. I know it’s not a done deal ; I have spoken with CEO Alan Coutt’s on numerous occasions and there is a lot of work to do before the first shovel gets put in the ground, but what I’m trying to say in a rambling paragraph is this.

If the city, and officials put half as much energy into getting the downtown situation right as they did to win the bid for Noront ; we’d be a few steps ahead when the Station Mall closes.

On a positive note ; if you are a Honeymoon Suite fan, I will have an interview with Johnnie Dee next week. For the first time in 19 years, Suite have a song in the top 30. Check out Find What You’re Looking For on You tube as a teaser.

 

Ernest Skinner

One comment

  1. I’m not sure if having queen street change direction would work since folks comming across the bridge use Bay street already for that direction. Another problem if queen street goes to one lane we would lose the parking on it.
    People who would like to explore queen st are hesitant for that reason also. More parking would be needed.
    Just my opinion but I agree that .any changes are needed to move into this century.