Volume 92, Issue 31

Thursday, October 29, 1998

behind closed doors


Culture for sale

Let's go to the movies baby – or should we?

A debate has flared up in North London recently revolving around a movie theatre. Essentially, the corporate "mega-land" amusement park, which has popped up in the corn fields of Masonville Place, wants to add a megaplex theatre to complete its intricate money-making machine. So what's the problem?

Would it be convenient? Yes. Would it be successful? Yes. Would it good for London? Maybe.

The Masonville area has proven to be a hotbed of recent economic growth, but unfortunately it has been solely in the form of giant corporate superstores and restaurants which almost identically replicate suburban growth across Canada. The proposed movie theatre will be the final link on a corporate stranglehold which could effectively kill the downtown.

So why should we care? All growth is good growth right?

Not necessarily. One cannot deny London's downtown area is experiencing economic difficulties, but this does not mean we should abandon it in favour of these cookie-cutter, corporate megaplazas. If a giant movie theatre is built in the Masonville area, it will cause a domino effect which will further hurt the shops, bars and restaurants of downtown. Not to mention Galleria London.

While some may not see this as a problem, others realize this is short-term thinking. When cities abandon their downtowns in favour of suburb growth of such gigantic proportions, the result almost always ends in tragedy. One has to look no further than cities like Detroit and St.Catharines to see the results of this.

Downtowns are where fundamental things like distinction and culture are found – these are not instantly created. Without a vibrant downtown, London will soon be regarded as a city with no unique attributes or cultural vibrancy.

Some cities manage to stop this sort of growth and make downtown areas appealing and profitable. This sort of distinction and integrity give cities the kind of long term boost which one cannot put a dollar figure on.

If London's downtown goes, beautiful areas like Richmond Row will soon follow. Richmond Row has managed to perfectly bridge large franchise businesses with more distinct and varied ones – keeping the area both financially and culturally alive.

While it is unlikely the new theatre will be stopped, it is now all the more essential that London puts some serious effort and money into revitalizing the downtown – not just talking about it.

With careful planning and wise economic decisions to foster growth in the downtown core, both areas should be able to thrive simultaneously. If the city continues to ignore this problem, then London will truly lose all which has made it a beautiful and vibrant city. Welcome to Detroit.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazette.editor@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998