Rebuilding Downtown Belleville
Having moved from London to Belleville, there is a noticeable difference between each downtown. Downtown London has managed to stay vibrant and to stay away from a bad reputation. Many students flock to downtown London during the night to visit the popular bars and eateries. During the summer, when all the students have left, the downtown hosts many festivals and events to draw the permanent residents away from the Wal-Marts and Costcos.
In contrast, Downtown Belleville has a bad reputation and lacks energy. Rediscover Downtown is a good name for a campaign as most people I talk to see the downtown as a place to be avoided. Even discussions on Twitter focus on the bad reputation of the core. The main obstacle for the downtown is to shed its negative image and to build a positive image in the minds of Bellevillians.
First, Belleville needs to make a concerted effort between business and law enforcement. Residents, students and tourists will not go downtown if they do not feel safe. Law enforcement needs to be visible to everyone in the community. The police need to be walking the side walks, patrolling on bikes and patrolling in their cruisers. If policing is visible then people will avoid doing criminal acts and people will feel comfortable walking around during the day and night. My hometown of Simcoe, ON established a police detachment in its core to begin the process of repairing its bad reputation. Belleville has a detachment close on Dundas East yet it lacks the visibility because it not smack in the middle of downtown.
Belleville businesses need to make a better effort to cater towards citizens. Most businesses are only open until five or six which means anybody who works won’t shop there. By the time they get off work and try to go downtown the shops are closed. In addition, most shops have limited hours on the weekends. No matter how good a store is, no matter how unique a store is, no one will shop there if the store is closed when they have time off. Belleville businesses are closed during the hours when most people shop. There is a reason the box stores stay open late (Walmart stays open untill 11pm!) and stay open during the weekends: working families shop during those times.
Belleville is trying to improve its downtown and from what I have read it is getting better. The possible closing of City Hotel could be a huge reputation boost to the core; however, I think the City Hotel is a landmark and the new owners
should use its name in a positive way. Turn a black eye into a proud establishment and create a centerpiece for the downtown. The City Hotel could symbolize the entire rebuilding effort. Having a vibrant core will take a few years but I think Belleville is taking the correct path to success.