Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Downtown Revitalization

Posted by auroracitizen on October 4, 2009

The downtown core of Aurora has long been of concern for both residents and merchants. Yonge/Wellington Street parking has been debated as both essential (to merchants) and annoying (to drivers) for years.

Commercial centres continue to grow — with large pockets along Bayview and out at the 404 —  but Aurora does not have a vibrant downtown core that has reached its potential.

With the recent Thompson’s closing and Liquidation World opening up in the old Price Chopper, what plans does the Mayor and this Council have?

Make no mistake it will take a bold plan. One with foresight and require real collaboration and leadership to pull it off. It will not be easy.

However, if this Council wants a legacy different from “right to Dry”, fired Integrity Commissioners, entire senior staff turnover in 1 term, accusations of favouritism about select volunteers — here is an opportunity.

In her inaugural address Mayor Phyllis Morris stated that one of Council’s priorities was “developing a plan for our downtown and heritage areas, including Library Square” (see full transcript). There is less that 1 year left and we are still waiting.

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10 Responses to “Downtown Revitalization”

  1. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    Evelyn, I have to disagree with you on narrowing or closing Yonge St on certain times. This does nothing to address traffic woes and would only increase frustration.

    That aside if parking was made available in behind I still believe that stores on Yonge could be attractions as you suggest.

    As Thompsons is such a large space perhaps it would make a great shared space for several vendors. I’m thinking like what the Crawford Wells store was in King a long time ago before it became uber yupy & prohibitively expensive.

    It could provide a storefront to vendors that have no way of having a presence after the market closes. There was an indoor collection of farmers market vendors up in Georgina for awhile, was a real treat to visit.

    Hmmmmm Lets see we have $400K that is actually being considered to revitalize what amounts to a 150+year old dilapidated outhouse, or we could use it to subsidize some local vendors on main street.

  2. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    Aurora retailers, and there were a full complement… we even had a hat shop on Yonge Street, Ardill’s Clothing, several men’s wear shops, Stedman’s, shoe shops, a butcher , a baker, ladies wear and a stationary shop (before home computers), several drug stores, a post office, doctors and dentists, Paint and wallpaper. Everything one could want was on Yonge Street.

    When Hill Crest and Upper Canada were built, there was literally a death knell to local enterprise. Customers went where there was parking convenience and every other amenity.

    Main Street business has every reason to believe the loss of parking in front of the stores will mean the survivors may just as well follow their predecessors.

    I believe, despite Thompson going out of business and the Supermarket going to a jobber outlet, we are seeing a renaissance in the Yonge Street retail market.

    Check out the new style in Aurora Shopping Centre, Shoppers Drugs have several outlets in Town. New people like the old style flavour of Main Street. Malls are no longer the ultimate. They are too expensive for the average retailer. Mainly the chains survive there. When you’ve visited one, you’ve seen them all.

    No, I don’t think we should ban parking on Yonge Street. I think we should recognise shopping styles change like everything else and owner-operated stores have something different to offer, if we just give them a chance to show us their wares.

    Closing Yonge Street for a Market for a few hours on a Saturday is not a novel notion. It’s a centuries old method of marketing that has survived because they entice us.

    Outdoor markets have a special flavour but not tucked away in some remote location that depends on entertainment and special events to bring the people out.

  3. Tim the Enchanter said

    Councillor Buck says “Ban parking and you accommodate vehicular traffic only”
    Finally – a member of council gets it!
    So why hasn’t the obvious step been taken?
    Is it because merchants fear that if folks can’t street park in front of their chosen shop so they can dash in and “buy and fly”, they won’t bother to stop at all?
    Gee whiz, I hope not. Doesn’t say much about one’s establishment if folks won’t stop unless it’s convenient.
    Yonge is a major thoroughfare so turning it into a pedestrian mall ain’t gonna happen but since there’s ample parking behind both sides of Yonge we can ban street parking, help move traffic and folks can still park and wander up and down the sidewalks availing themselves of the unique retail offerings should they so choose.
    Everyone wins!

    BTW – SWLTTMTP made a great point about Richmond Hill – a situation more similar to ours than Unionville or Uxbridge.

  4. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    Old Aurora was not the Aurora of forty years ago with a population of twenty-thousand.

    You have to go back more than fifty and less than sixty years, when the town had a population of less than six thousand to find Old Aurora.

    Before shopping centres in the towns north and south of us.

    When crowds of people shopping and catching up on gossip in downtown Aurora were so dense a person had to step off the sidewalk on to the road to make headway.

    When Yonge Street really was the town’s main street and not solely the conduit for traffic going everywhere else.

    Ban parking and you accommodate vehicular traffic only.

    To those who say there are no stores to speak of, I suggest you stop, park your car and take a walk up and down Yonge Street.

    From the south end to the north,new stores and restaurants have been opened for business
    and old stores Like Caruso’s and mac Fleming’s have been converted to serve modern needs.

    It’s are not the same as you find in the malls and shopping centres.

    They are independent owner operators. Who shop for their customers at the various fairs and wholesaler trade shows,if you give them a chance to get to know you.

    You will find items in their stores not seen anywhere else. It’s what old-style merchandising was about.

    Canadian Tire, Home Hardware and True Value have withstood the competition from the big box operators for a considerable tme now. They haven’t managed that without knowing how to serve their customers and provide competitive prices.

    Get out of the car. Pay them a visit. If you think the Farmer’s Market is enjoyable, pay your local shopkeeper a visit. See what they have to offer. You will find them the length and breadth of Aurora and in the side streets beyond.

    Think of the annual street fair.

    Maybe we should bring the Saturday market back to the down town core. On Yonge Street and in the parking lot down the old stairs.

    Clear out those silly unkempt gardens and make more space. Forget about events and entertainment. Make shopping the experience.

    Like it used to be in Old Aurora when the population was less than six thousand.

  5. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    In reviewing the Town of Aurora Economic Development Strategy 2003

    on 96 here is what it states in respect to revitalization:

    Revitalize the Town’s Historic Downtown Commercial Core

    A) Identify and promote programs and initiatives that assist owners in
    maintaining and restoring older buildings.

    B) Identify absentee landlords and work to improve vacant properties and reestablish
    tenant opportunities.

    C) Work with Town staff to ensure adequate parking within the core area to
    support commercial activity.

    D) Review opportunities for the development, redevelopment, and conversion of
    properties, both vacant and existing, which will not dramatically change the
    character or distinct nature of this planning precinct and maintain a healthy
    business environment.

    E) Consider ‘theme’ treatments through the use of appropriate architectural
    streetscaping and landscaping elements that would distinguish this area from
    others in the Town.

    F) Examine the use of additional entrance features, signage to acknowledge the
    perimeter of the area and consider developing a separate section in the Town’s
    Sign By-law for specific signage standards in the downtown commercial core.

    G) Support the completion of the Town’s Heritage Resource Area – Urban Design
    Guidelines and the proposed recommendations.

    H) Determine the possibility of developing a tourism strategy.

    Doesn’t look like any of this has been done. Am I wrong?

    Continuing onto pg 104 under LONG-TERM ACTIONS (Achievable within a five (5) to ten (10) year timeframe)

    Implement programs in the Town’s historical downtown commercial core to: develop, redevelop, and convert properties, both vacant and existing, to maintain a healthy business environment; ensure adequate parking to support business activity; and create a focal point/public square.

    This was drafted in 2003, it’s nearing the end of 2009 we’re between 5-10 yrs so what gives?

  6. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    I agree that Aurora needs to move forward, but remain positive that there can be a way to revitalize our core without having to watch it get turned into condos.
    Aurora deserves better than that.

    When comparing vibrant historic main streets it is fine to cite cities like port Perry, Uxbridge & Port Hope, heck you might even include Newmarket, as they’ve done a great deal of bringing resurgence to their main st. But we need to notice what all of these cities share: the fact that their historic main st is not on Yonge St.

    Diverting people from Yonge St is not going to happen.
    So in answer to how do you revitalize a thoroughfare, perhaps we should pay attention to what is happening in Richmond hill, seeing as their historic main street is also on Yonge St, it seems to have a good mix of stores but none of our traffic woes.

    Restrict parking on Yonge St.
    A couple green-P parking signs would go a long way to pointing people to parking available.

    Then get to work on finding businesses that are a match for a Yonge St. core and offer them incentives to be there. Small businesses, boutiques, artisans, has anyone noticed there isn’t a coffee shop along that stretch? shhh don’t tell Starbucks.

  7. Anonymous said

    One of the main problems with the downtown of Aurora is types of business that have setup shop there. Unless you are looking for a “service” (i.e. bank, lawyer, ortho, etc) or some really niche shop (i.e. dungeons & dragons games) your reason to go downtown is strictly to get on your way to the real usful shops. I know, there is a drugstore and a hardware store, but how long with the hardware store be there with the Ronas, Home Depots and Lowes of the world.

    Parking on Yonge is a problem – it should not be allowed. There should be more signage to inform drivers that there is parking behind most of these businesses – I still talk to people who have lived here 10 years and have no idea about the parking behind the Yonge St. businesses.

    Thompson’s is closing – what is going to go in there? I hope that this is not a ploy like D-Mac did a couple of years ago. “We are closing forever”…. then they re-open under a new name – owned by the children of the original owner. It did not last long, the place is now a Shoppers Drug Mart.

    How long will Liquidation World stay in business? Now we will have a complex of cheap tackey junk – Dollarama and Liquidation World!

    Downtown Aurora of 1979 is gone – never to return. The sooner people come to grips with this the better.

  8. annonymous said

    The Aurora of 1979 could not handle the traffic then anymore then it can now! We did not have the back streets to travel on, such as Murray Dr and the Indrustrial Parkway. There was only Yonge St. to get from one end to the other. Needed no parking signs then. Besides have you gone down the Downtown core of a place like Port Perry, Uxbridge, Port Hope? These are places that have a downtown core that is thriving. People actually have a purpose to visit them, they are somewhat tourist attractions as well as shopping places. A place to visit on a fall weekend and stroll. Aurora has none of these features. We have a very busy Yonge St. that takes you through the town and if you blink you will miss it. How do you revitalize a thoroughfare?

  9. Tim the Enchanter said

    In regards to the revitalization plan I suppose we must be fair and withhold criticism of the current council until we see the final Aurora Promenade report. I expect the proposal(s) will ignite much debate.

    However, the parking issue on both Yonge and Wellington is simply a failure to face facts on the part of the past several councils.

    The reasons may vary but I suspect it has a lot to do with the influence, real or imagined, of that vocal core of
    Old Town Aurorans that desperately cling to the misguided notion that somehow the Aurora of forty years ago, the “good old Aurora” with 20,000 residents, can and must be “preserved”. They might have pulled it off too except someone forgot to flick on the NO VACANCY sign and 30,000 more folks (and their cars) moved in and now we’re 50,000 – on our way to 70,000 (with more cars)

    The Aurora of 1979 could handle traffic AND parking on Yonge/Wellington Streets – the Aurora of 2009 can’t.

    Now unless council is proposing to evict 30,000 residents, bulldoze their homes and plant corn I suggest they order up some NO PARKING signs and get on with it.

  10. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    Downtown revitalization cannot begin until traffic woes have been addressed.

    I do not believe that all option have been discussed or some of the easier ones attempted. I can’t say it enough, remove the parking on Yonge St from Wellington down to the public Library, I’d even suggest all the way to Henderson.

    We all agree it’s a mess. If any of the businesses along this stretch feels that this would put them at a huge disadvantage….wake up!

    Parking on the road adds congestion it discourages anyone wanting to travel through town. there are huge safety issues when cars have to merge to avoid parked cars, and then there are the idiots that park on one side of the street and decide to run to the other even though the lights are 20′ away.

    Would business dry up and float away with out parking, I seriously doubt it, if anything it might encourage people to visit these stores, and return to the drivers in our town a little sanity.

    There is parking for these businesses in behind, there are side streets, there is a parking lot largely unused for the old Price choppers.

    With this put to rest perhaps we could entertain the notion of revitalization.

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