Healthy Downtown a Critical Part of Community
BY: Wendy Timpano, General Manager, Orillia Area CDC
Over the past several decades, there is one challenge that downtown areas have consistently been faced with - and that is change. They have faced changes in consumer expectations, shopping pattterns, competition, community identity, community and governmental support and economics. As a result, some peole have questioned whether or not downtown areas can continue to effectively be the centre of our communities.
I am a strong believer that every challenge also presents an opportunity.
I am proud to be a member of this community and to work for an organization that prides itself on supporting the development of sustainable communities. I believe that a healthy and vibrant downtown is a key component in defiing a community's identity. People want to belong to a community where they can identify with what makes it unique, thereby fostering a sense of belonging.
While I have only been with the Orillia Area Community Development Corporation (CDC) for a short while, I am convinced that many people in this community would agree that downtown Orillia remains a critically important part of this community.
I have been encouraged by the number of business owners, community members, business associations and municipal leaders who recognize the value of collaboration. I have also been impressed by the desire and passion that many of our local downtown business owners have shown with respect to improving our downtown.
For anyone who might question why, our downtown areas are so much more than just a great place to dine and shop. For instance, downtown Orillia is rich in architectural heritage and history. I feel priviledged to have access to places such as the Orillia Museum of Art and History and the Opera House where my family can enjoy quality live theatre programs, both of which are downtown. Some of the greatest events take place in downtown Orillia as a result of our dedicated downtown business owners, the Downtown Orillia Management Board and so many enthusiastic community organizations and volunteers. On top of this, downtown Orillia is adjacent to one of the most beautiful waterfronts.
Downtown areas can provide the perfect opportunity to leave a positive lasting impression on visitors, investors an our own community members so that ultimately, they will return to the area thereby supporting our local economy.
At the Orillia Area CDC, we believe that our downtowns are worth supporting and worth investing in.
While there has been much discussion on the topic of Orillia's downtown revitalization, in order to meet the ever changing needs, it will be important to build consensus around key issues and goals. Most experts agree that the driving force behind successfully revitalizing a downtown is community involvement.
In recognition of this, the CDC in partnership with the City of Orillia, the Downtown Orillia Management Board and the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce will be providing downtown businesses, local organizations, and anyone interested in the future of downtown Orillia a unique opportunity.
As Orillia considers what the next steps will be for a revitalized downtown, we invite you to see and hear examples of how other communities approached this important task, what common issues they faced and how they began to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Cara Finn, of Main Street Middlesex has researched best practices for main street downtown revitalization programs in Canada and the United Statres, and will share her insights with our community. You will also have the opportunity to add your piece to the puzzle of making downtown Orillia the best it can be.
The event will take place on Wednesday, April 6, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Orillia City Centre, council chamber, 50 Andrew St. S. Space is limited, so please RSVP by contacting the downtown Orillia office at 705-325-3261 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CDC's mission is to support the develoment of sustainable communities through our community economic development and small business activities. For more information about these activities, please visit www.orilliacdc.com.