Every City’s downtown core, in every municipality, suffers from three major new influences, as our world transforms into an Information and Knowledge economy that’s globally interconnected.
- Online shopping is fast, it’s easy and it doesn’t involve the need to go outside, drive to the store, get parked and fight the crowds.
- The growth of indoor malls with so many stores immediately available makes the shopping experience at malls a little more comfortable, convenient – and patrons are certainly protected from the elements.
- Big-box stores and strip plazas put a huge dent in the business that may otherwise be directed to downtown shops.
Downtown Oshawa is no exception to this rule and for anyone to suggest a return to the “good old days” when it was a thriving center for the 50,000 citizens who lived here is fanciful at best.
At its height, Downtown Oshawa was home to a multitude of clothing stores, shoe stores, 4 theatres, several department stores, hotels, fine dining establishments and a myriad of other unique businesses.
However, as we struggled against the competition, we seemed to spend too much time focused on the rear-view mirror instead of where we could be going. Fortunately, we have reversed that trend in recent years and now, the future looks bright.
Our renaissance started with solid, traditional businesses such as Wilson and Lee Music Store, Doug Wilson’s Men’s Wear, the Lovell Group/Lovell Drugs, Wilsons Furniture Store, the Canadian Automotive Museum, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, the Oshawa Public Library, Coopers Auto Services, Armstrong Funeral Services, Oshawa City Hall, McIntosh-Anderson-Kellam Funeral Home and several of the major banks who all decided to commit to remaining with a downtown presence.
They have been joined in recent years with visionaries who located major and influential pillars such as the Provincial Courthouse, the Tribute Communities Centre, UOIT, a new YMCA, Core21 and the Holiday Inn Express, all within our downtown borders.
With this solid, albeit eclectic, mix of services and businesses providing a solid foundation from which to work, the challenge before us is to now create an environment that compels the citizens of the City of Oshawa (now having grown to a population of 170,00) and indeed, the entire Region of Durham to visit downtown Oshawa.
To this end, there are three major initiatives in place:
- Ongoing development of the Downtown with major condominium projects as well as the renewal of the former Genosha Hotel. This would serve to bring thousands of new residents to downtown to live. For those of us who live in the downtown core, as it becomes more pedestrian-friendly, it is a wonderful convenience to be able to walk to find anything we could possibly wish for. In addition, more people living downtown means more activity, more excitement and more enthusiasm for the immediate area we live, work and play in.
- We are working diligently to improve our reputation and image. Part of that work is dedicated to creating an environment that calls to folks to visit us and enjoy all that we have to offer. Instead of a concrete jungle, we have parks, planters, hanging baskets, trees and other environmentally positive aspects for our downtown.
- There are planned streetscape improvements.
We are not sitting back and letting life happen to us, but rather, we are being more proactive and broadcasting news of all the great things happening through social and traditional media. We want to shout out to the world “come on down to downtown Oshawa – the heartbeat of our City”. We want downtown Oshawa to be the most aesthetically-pleasing place in Durham region.
In conjunction with the improved messaging about the nature of Downtown Oshawa and much like the distillery district in Toronto, we want this to become a destination of choice.
We have in excess of 50 eateries with more to come, beginning with the opening of a new Wendel Clark’s and the reopening of the former Fazio’s restaurant. Our theatres and entertainment venues have regular appeal to young and old alike.
Major events such as Bikes on Bond, Kars on King, wine festivals, butter tart festivals and, new for 2019, the Downtown Summerfest, all bring thousands of visitors to us every year. We also have a myriad of unique shops where you can find items not easily found at the malls, or even online.
Downtown Oshawa has risen to the challenge, is thriving and open for fun, entertainment and business.
We’re ramping this up in 2019, and Oshawa is on the way to becoming a wonder to the world!