Naysayers, Or, Why Bridget is right (mostly)

There is a thread on the 59 Carden St. blog that’s tossing around the merits of a post by “Bridget”. In it, Bridget’s main point is that downtown merchants must be more creative and determined in their efforts to be a destination for consumers and that the kind of capital projects we have seen — or are envisioned for the downtown — are not going to cut it in terms of returning the core to a commercial centre that bares much significance to what most of us in Guelph do in a day.

Bridget makes the point that the downtown has changed, but more, that Guelph has changed, and that for important reasons relating to how it’s changed, merchants in the core cannot rely on one capital project after another, with all of the disruption it causes, to win over the Guelph consumer, culminating in a sale, multiple sales, cash in the till — they have to do it themselves and it’ll take some time. A couple of fellow posters got hung up on the details she used to help make her points around what merchants have to do to compete with the other nodes but no one entirely challenged the thrust of what she was saying in regard to the relevance of the nodes for most consumer activity.

“Steve”, another poster, was correct to acknowledge the draw of the unique shops in the downtown and to consider how additional residential in the core (as did Bridget as well) would positively impact on the viability of it. Where Steve perhaps fell down is in over-estimating how motivated most consumers in Guelph are to make downtown Guelph a place where they will spend their money, regularly — nevermind even visit.

To me, a point goes to the realist, Bridget, over the optimist, Steve.

In taking it all together, there may be agreement between Bridget and Steve that the downtown could become successful as a node serving the immediate local community, in the same way as per Bridget other nodes serve their more immediate populations  — but it will not be more that that, especially without a lot of work.

The downtown as a local commerical node: there is value in that. The key thing for me is, let’s not lose sight of what it is though. Let’s have realistic expectations about the current and future place the core holds for most Guelphites and proceed accordingly.

Let’s keep our spending, our “investments” there in scale with where and how Guelph lives; let’s have some balance in how we decide what is built where, and when.

I appreciated Bridget’s caution about having realistic expectations about what a new library or splash park or what-not will mean for the outcomes of downtown merchants. I would add there is a real issue of fair competition, or equity across the various nodes in terms of what the city spends where.

And more, there is the issue of just how much one aspect of our city so nearly completely dominates what we think about and discuss in this town.

Is that right? If there are costs to the capital projects, including the lost tax assessments in making some happen, what are the less obvious costs that go along with having so much attention and energy in going into the core?

What are we not seeing?

Getting back to the 59 Carden St. blog, “Ernie” remarks on how others will consider Bridget a “naysayer” for her views. For a couple of those other posters to dismiss her general argument out of hand over a few things she’s used to make her point —

Who’s the real naysayer here?

About Craig Chamberlain

Ward 3 Guelph resident, dad and step-dad.
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