Editorial Board 2000-2001
A mall is not a home
A mall is not a home
Hurry get the camera London's Galleria Mall just took its first step towards getting some type of financial upswing into the ailing downtown core.
It's a Kodak moment for any who have ventured into the area, only to find beer bellies and hobos. With a new call-centre in the works that would house about 2,400 new jobs, the Galleria is bound to do some bouncing back from its inert state. But will this be enough?
Not only is the downtown area lacking in commercial jobs, but it's also lacking the vital customers that inject those businesses with the money they need to survive. Housing in the core is just as important as getting more jobs into the area, because it too provides a permanent customer base to fuel the local economy.
Think about it.
The reason malls like White Oaks and Masonville Place are thriving, is because they have huge residential areas from which to draw their requisite capital. North Americans don't like to travel anywhere that requires them to use their feet. We need things within spitting distance and that means getting there by car, can't even take too long.
If the downtown had a large enough population, permanently residing within its bosom, then it's economy would get off the ground and most importantly, stay afloat.
It's a well known fact that downtown infrastructure is lacking. It's as much a pain to park your car, as it is to get there in the first place. Cities like Toronto, whose population and infrastructure can support a downtown economy with high-rises, subways and the like, never have to worry about re-vitalization,because there is a captive market of residents who have no choice but to spend at least some of their money at downtown locations.
A potential 2,400 jobs are good for the core; no one can deny that. But, how long will those employees stay? Economies work in ups and downs. How do we know that this firm won't pack its bags in the next down-cycle. Building residences into the some of the Galleria's vapid existence could create this much needed consumer base.
London was on the right track when it looked into creating housing at the former Smugglers' Alley location. Unfortunately, nothing has yet come of the re-zoned land.
The faster people move into the downtown core, in decent living conditions, the quicker the economy will pull itself up by the bootstraps.The ready availability of a skilled workforce downtown will likely bring the much needed kick in the pants the core is praying for.
These potential jobs will only go so far in revitalizing London's urban scene. Don't get your hopes up, though, a saviour won't come simply with a promise of more employment. A vision of the downtown of years past, won't be realized until it becomes appealing enough to live in.