June 23rd, 2018

Downtown the same old story year after year

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on March 7, 2018.

Every time the municipal election comes around we hear about it, and every time nothing is done about it — Medicine Hat’s downtown core.

Downtown is broken, and needs to be rebuilt, not given Band-Aid fixes over and over.

The issues with downtown are plenty, and well-documented — the biggest being a lack of big-name stores or attractions.

What is there downtown that would draw a typical nuclear family to it for a Saturday afternoon?

Sure, there’s some nice stores, a few cool coffee shops and a few specialty places — no one can argue that. But can anyone say the few neat, or cool places would warrant spending a few hours there every few weeks?

Probably not, when you can just go to the mall and likely save some money and time doing so.

Having a couple of chain stores and restaurants like say, a Swiss Chalet, downtown to supplement the local stores that already exist, and new ones that are coming — like the recently announced microbrewery, would be key in getting more people down there.

Another downfall to Medicine Hat’s downtown is the roads and parking, which both undoubtedly need to be completely reworked in order to convince people to come downtown.

One-way streets and a lack of parking spaces make it a nightmare to do anything downtown during prime hours, and this isn’t something that can quick-fixed.

The easiest way to fix the roads would be to start downtown completely from scratch. Bulldoze it, re-plan it, restructure it and make it far more user-friendly — for the consumers and the businesses.

Obviously this won’t happen, but it is the most viable fix to the abysmal parking and road system our city currently rolls with downtown.

The city’s downtown was dealt another big blow recently, with the City Centre Development Agency canceling the Chalk Art Festival, a show that brought easily more than 1,000 people downtown.

The justification for cancelling the show was essentially that it cost too much and didn’t do enough for the businesses it was supposed to be helping.

While that’s fair enough on the surface, could the event have not been reworked, or scaled back a bit?

The event brought artists in from all over Canada and some from the U.S, what if it was cut back to showcase people from just Medicine Hat and some of the province’s bigger city centres like Calgary and Edmonton?

The CCDA’s biggest focus should be getting Spectrum back downtown, and then adding events that weekend.

Adding a car show or chalk art display to Spectrum, assuming it’s being held downtown, would be great for getting people downtown, even with parking being an absolute nightmare when it’s busy.

Realistically, in three-or-so years at our next election, candidates will be peppered with the same questions they always get on revitalizing downtown, and in four years we’ll have the same issues we have today.

(Mo Cranker is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to https://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions.)

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