MY EVENT CENTRE VOTE
As a business owner who has spent the last 8 years in the heart of downtown Nanaimo, I have recently read and listened to people use the argument that the new event centre will revitalize our downtown. My concern is, for one, where have you been? and two, in the name of revitalizing downtown Nanaimo, is this event centre the way to go?
Here is why I voted no.
1.) We’ve needed a massive marketing campaign, attracting both sides of Nanaimo downtown, letting everyone know what’s actually downtown. Much of the North end of Nanaimo for instance has very little idea what’s downtown. I hear it on a constant basis from the North end stragglers that they are shocked and surprised when finally making it downtown for one reason or another.
For instance, they are often unaware that we have most of the best restaurants in Nanaimo. Two Chefs Affair, Food Koma…..
(the Award winning) Gabriel’s, SukkhoThai, Aladdin’s, Firehouse Grill, Minnows, Asteria’s Greek, The OldCityStation Pub, Gina’s Mexican Cafe, the Modern Cafe. The list goes on and on. Also, our selection of Coffee bars – Bocca’s, Mon Petit Choux Bakery, Serious Coffee and the Vault Cafe; which btw hosts open mic nights for local artists and musicians, which the downtown community is filled with. We have unique, independent fashion downtown instead of mall store product. There are tattoo shops, music stores, 5 banks, 2 radio stations including the community supported CHLY Radio, vintage shops, pubs and bars, hair, nail and tanning salons, pizza joints, (even a homemade cinnamon bun joint), live music, galleries, an amazing sea wall……….the amenities are numerous, but unfortunately all too unknown.
2.) We’ve also needed a massive marketing campaign to inform all the people of Nanaimo that our PARKADES DOWNTOWN solve the ‘still present’ notion that there is no parking downtown. We still hear this complaint on a regular basis. Our city has not done enough to inform Nanaimo and our surrounding communities that, for instance, we have two underground parkades directly under the Conference Centre. The hourly rate is about a buck an hour and there are almost 1000 heated and security guarded parking spaces in these 2 parkades alone.
A big part of the parking problem is that WE LACK SIGNAGE IN ALL INCOMING DIRECTIONS TO DOWNTOWN THAT WOULD GUIDE VISITORS AND MORE IMPORTANTLY ALL UNAWARE CITIZENS OF NANAIMO TO THE AVAILABLE PARKADES. NOT ONLY THE 2 BELOW THE CONFERENCE CENTRE BUT SEVERAL OTHERS FOR INSTANCE THAT ARE CLOSE AND CONVENIENT TO THE CHARM OF OUR OLD CITY QUARTER AND ALL THAT IT HAS TO OFFER. The argument I’ve received is “it’s just not that easy to put up a sign, there are guidelines and….”. Well if it’s hard then get to it. Doesn’t change the fact that they are still needed.
As a visible example that you can see for yourself, on Commercial Street there currently is 1 sign and 1 sign only sorta hinting that there’s extra parking somewhere. It doesn’t say anything specifically about any underground parkades, it’s just one small sign with a letter P and an arrow. The kicker..…our 1 and only sign is only visible from one direction because a crosswalk sign sits eye-level in front of one side. One shitty little sign.
3.) Another crucial element missing downtown which requires time and money but has incredible benefits to downtown and to Nanaimo as a whole. Having a CONSISTENT (eventually traditional) street market downtown every 2 or 3 weeks, closed off to cars, and filled with fun activities, amazing local artists, great food and non-mall fashion. If done well, it will spread quickly through both word of mouth and advertising. Nanaimo is one of the only bigger cities on Vancouver Island that doesn’t have a large, regular downtown market. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Victoria, Duncan, Parksville, Quallicum Beach are just a few great examples of vibrant, thriving, and successful street/farmers/artists markets that happen regularly and they are known to draw people downtown on a REGULAR BASIS THROUGH OUT MOST OF THE YEAR. Something we are sorely missing in Nanaimo. We have relied far too long on the same handful of 1 day events which do not build community being once a year each. Non-tourist season downtown is a very difficult time as a small business. We live in a town of malls that are protective of their sheep.
4.) Next issue, which is reaching a critical point, is the increased drug trade, security threats and crime rates downtown. This past year has been the worst year for drug addicted related theft at our store and it has gotten to the point where we don’t bother calling the police any longer because it takes too long for them to arrive and all that ever happens is I give one more statement.. It’s gotten so out of hand that I’ve been in physical altercations with people caught stealing from us because I’m not certainly not going to let them get away with it.
5,) Another missing piece that would help the community feel downtown that needs money and resources is finally beautifying Diana Krall Square. Spend some money getting rid of the ‘prison yard’ feel. Maybe drop beautiful green moss down the walls to start with.
6.) I won’t spend much time mentioning the Jean Burns (aka ACME) Building or the abandoned A+B Sound Building because the city leadership can’t do anything supposedly. Well……FIND a solution once and for all. It would be an excruciatingly long awaited removal of 2 massive eye soars that should not be allowed to highjack our city like they have.
7.) Finally, use money and resources to get a hotel built for the conference centre. The building is basically useless without it. You want to talk about revitalizing downtown?? ……..before you convince us to build another building that is agreed will operate at a loss……..revitalize downtown Nanaimo dramatically by FINDING someone to build the hotel. The gain in tourism would be in the thousands of both people and revenue instead of the continual losses and 3 month shut downs year after year.
Listen, I love sports…..especially hockey…..and I’m very familiar with WHL. I’m also a Social Worker by trade and understand the importance of having an event centre to build community. That said, I still had to (pre)vote no because of the more important needs I’ve shared above.
Share this if you agree….curse me if you don’t…..thanks for reading.