Friday, February 16, 2024

Aurora, What You Hear Is True, Downtown Core Revitalization

The Town of Aurora has identified within the Yonge Wellington Downtown Core (YWDC) the old Library and Fire Hall properties on Victoria Street as surplus.

The Town of Aurora has an outstanding heritage district in the Yonge Wellington Downtown Core along with our treasured Aurora Cultural Centre and vibrant Aurora Public Library. Aurora has lots of small town charm and character. The Aurora Public Library gives us a bit of an education bend, so you would think we’d be able to sustain an economic sector within. However, Town of Aurora Councils have heard for over a decade the YWDC needs to be revitalized.

We have the Promenade Study from last term at cost of $141,000. Recently a Streetscapes study at cost of $25,000. You’d be disappointed if you expected these studies to address the revitalization of the Downtown Core.

The Austin Texas Revitalization Authority (ATRA) is quite a story.

“Partnership is the key element that brings initiatives to life.”

The ATRA is a private, nonprofit corporation. The strategy adopted was to partner government, local organizations and private resources to form a Community Development Group. This group or Authority as they call it, was tasked to revitalize the neglected and decaying Downtown Core. As well, this district had major social and residential issues that Austin had to overcome.

The ATRA’s focus paid off large to re-establish the proud residential community in the downtown heritage district complete with a vibrant retail and commercial sector. It wasn’t like that 15 years ago. Quite the opposite. What was once a blight, is now the envy of many cities with decaying downtown cores. Austin is an innovator.

Austin currently brands itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World”.

The ATRA shows us that we must promote a positive community working partnership. Called upon to invest resources into social capital.

Aurora’s core focus would be – engaging consumers, supporting our youth, and building businesses.

The cycle; a healthy economy that helps fund the Aurora Cultural Centre, they in turn engage the community, which in turn has consumers spending time and money on businesses.

“Inclusive Creativity is one of the best tools for enterprise and economic development (EED) and in turn cultural sustainability” – Richard Florida.

An Identitymust be created. I draw your attention to the Big Red Apple and Webers Burgers. Both stories illustrate how an Identitycreated a reason for speeding commuters to be drawn to stop at their locations. Hugely successful operations, now have accompanying gas stations, Tim Hortons and shops. Economies that did not exist before are now vibrant and sustainable. Amazing. What an Identitycan do!

In Aurora, I propose as an Identity– Live Music. That’s what Austin Texas did.

Let the surplus properties (old Library and Fire Hall) become a common area with a performing arts building at the north end of the site. The open space would be adjacent to the Aurora Cultural Centre and the Aurora Public Library. The common area would mirror in the same fashion as the Newmarket’s Riverwalk Common Area. Let the “inclusive creativity” design an interesting gathering place for our community featuring our Aurora Farmers Market, live music, performing artists, artisans and novelty vendors.

Flower boxes would be made to look like accordions, bike racks – guitars, benches like piano’s, garbage cans – drums, etc. This theme would be taken from the common square out to Yonge Street. The YWDC streetscapes would now take on the music theme to backstop the live music identity. Along with the Aurora’s fabulous trademark mural – The Larter Building on Wellington, we could compliment buildings on Yonge Street with huge murals depicting music.

Downtown Core

Our youth centre would have recording studios and workshops supporting the live music industry and performing arts.

The money invested will be recouped in Tax Assessment of the new businesses attracted to the Downtown Core. Ripple effect on job creation, engaged community, will attract higher values for our home and new businesses relocating to our town.

Aurora’s Downtown Core would become a live music destination, with restaurants, supporting shops, and a focus on performing arts.

In the coming months the Town of Aurora will be asking for your ideas on what to do with the old library. You can make a difference.

John Abel
Councillor, Town of Aurora


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