Downtown initiatives aim to revitalize core
By Dave Yasvinski
London's Downtown Millennium Plan Committee announced its three-pronged plan to revitalize the city's downtown core yesterday.
The initiatives were presented by committee chair Joe Swan, who said what they have done is created a vision of downtown as an arts and entertainment centre. The City of London would contribute between $35 and $40 million towards these initiatives over the next five years.
"We're going in with a financial commitment and trying to demonstrate leadership to show by investment that this is a credible plan," Swan said.
The plan has been divided up into programs, projects funded by the City of London and partnership projects. The programs which will go ahead immediately, attempt to beautify the city and encourage people to come downtown, Swan said.
They range from initiatives such as renovating and bringing old buildings up to code to free parking on Saturdays.
The partnership projects drew the most interest and represent the major facilities the committee would like to see established downtown. They are an artists' incubator, an arena/entertainment complex, a performing arts centre and the operating costs for a jet d'eau, which would be a water fountain at the forks of the Thames River.
Swan said the committee managed to allocate funds for these projects without raising taxes. "We had a claw back on moneys we would normally transfer to other people. I think that's what will get the most support from taxpayers."
"Our goal is that in the foreseeable future, people will say 'what a great downtown,'" said London Mayor Dianne Haskett. "Today is a vital starting point. Now we have to put it out to the public and look for private institutions to partner with us," she added.
Swan said they are quite confident there is a high degree of interest in the private sector to partner with the city on the major projects.
"I hope to see them all achieved, ultimately," Haskett said.
Debra Bray, co-coordinator for the arts centre, said they have been working towards obtaining an arts incubator in London for the past two years. "We feel it should be a priority because it is ready to go. It is financially feasible and will provide immediate and lasting benefits."