Over the last half-century or so, Welland – along with many North American cities – has suburbanized, deindustrialized, and abandoned its downtown. Recently, Welland’s downtown core has shown some signs of life. Some businesses have moved in, a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) is in the works, and some interesting community-driven projects have been popping up. It has been the position of this blog that a healthy downtown is an important component of a healthy city. So, what are the next steps for revitalizing the heart of this town? I have posed the following questions to each of the candidates running in this fall’s municipal elections. I will post responses from the candidates who submit them. I will not edit the responses. I have no agenda other than to see a healthy, thriving downtown Welland in my lifetime. I look forward to some interesting ideas. Results will be posted over the next two weeks. Here are the questions…
I have asked each candidate to be as specific in his/her responses as possible, offering details, evidence, and examples where they can.
1. What are the strengths of Welland’s downtown?
2. What are its weaknesses?
3. What are your thoughts about one-way traffic downtown? Please defend your position. If you feel it should be changed, how might you go about achieving this change?
4. What are your thoughts about bike lanes in downtown Welland? Do we have too many? Enough? Not enough? Are there priority areas you feel would benefit from bike lanes? How might you address this issue?
5. There are several parcels of undeveloped land that have languished in downtown Welland. Three examples that have been discussed in this blog are the sites of the former Welland High, Atlas Steels, and Guardian Express buildings. All of these sites are on Main St. There are brownfield issues associated with at least one. What is the best way to develop these lands?
6. Some downtown commercial buildings have been vacant for years. Some of these buildings have no rental or sale information available. Some are owned by absentee landlords. How can this be addressed?
7. Do you see any benefit in offering people free parking downtown? Are there any changes you would make to downtown parking?
8. What other issues do you feel are concerns for downtown Welland? What else can you, in your position on council, do to help the downtown develop and thrive?
Prime Minister Kim Campbell famously said that an election is no time to discuss serious issues. My hope is the candidates in this fall’s election will prove that sentiment wrong. We will see…