Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Time To Re-Think Downtown Strategy

Time To Think Out Of The Box??

A 'rut' is described as a grave, with both ends kicked out of it. That seems to be where city hall is these days with the Vancouver Island Convention Centre. That state of the art, money-sucking fantastic new building downtown credited with single-handedly  being the saviour of downtown.

While those wishing to keep their jobs (those contracted to run the place) can point to all of the delegate days they have produced and the millions of dollars this adds to the total economy, you will be hard pressed to study any convincing reports to support these claims. I would suggest, that close scrutiny would reveal that most events in this new building could be handled easily at other venues in town, some owned by the city and some private. If they were, the citizens of Nanaimo would be out from under the $1,000,000.00 rock this place imposes.

There are several reasons city hall must doggedly stick with trying to push this particular rock up a hill, one is to avoid the egg they fear that would appear on their face, should they just finally fess up, and say the whole thing was a bad idea in the first place. The other obvious reason is the fact we have this state of the art facility that has to have SOME people using it to justify even keeping the lights on. Even if those somebodies are city councillors conducting a council meeting every now and then, for which we pay rent to the operators of the building. Yup, we pay rent to use our own building.

Hail Mary or Sound Business Idea??

In what looks like a Hail Mary move of sheer desperation, city council has adopted a tax exemption bylaw which is hoped that, if used in conjunction with free land will entice a builder to erect a hotel on the site of the vacant lot on Gordon Street. Isolated to just this one lot, the scheme might have merit, except for the fact it could simply eat into the profitability of existing hotels in town, specifically the Coast Bastion.

However, if adopted the ten year tax holiday would apply to any hotel or motel built anywhere in the city of Nanaimo providing it cost more than $2,000,000.00. The folly of that plan is giving a tax holiday to companies that would build a hotel or motel anyway, simply to satisfy market demand and make money. For example, the Ramada Inn on Terminal Avenue was built without any incentives from the city, it was just built as it should have been, to satisfy market demand, and built with private money. They are paying their share of taxes to Nanaimo, which, they would not be had this scheme been in place earlier.

Some Out of the Box Suggestions

If the end game is to make the downtown a vibrant, prosperous centre for the arts and trade and commerce perhaps some different ideas need exploring to meet that end. Follows are a few simple suggestions, from a simple fellow (me) .

1. Put that valuable piece of real estate on the open market, and let the private sector bring their money making expertise to bear and see what creative ideas they can come up with. The up side of this would be saving the taxpayer at least $1 million a year, and should allow us to pay off the mortgage along with the interest we are saddled with. The downside of this argument, is discovering our $75 million building has a fair market value of less than $20 mlllion, but if that's the way it is, that's the way it is.

2. Reduce the area being used for conventions and find creative uses for the rest of the space. City staff offices, VIU satellite campus ???

3. My personal favourite would be to turn the whole place into a REALLY UNIQUE retail centre of some kind, with such a distinctive mix of retailers and artisans that people will come on a regular basis, not just during tourist season but from the rest of Nanaimo and the Island to downtown to experience this outstanding shopping experience! Then a foot ferry from downtown to downtown could be constantly filled to overflowing with people working in Vancouver coming here to spend their much needed dollars in the local economy. The spin off would also be the making of Nanaimo into a bedroom community for Vancouver by having a viable, reliable fast ferry service whereby they can take advantage of the affordability of Nanaimo combined with the employment ability that Vancouver offers. Truly a win -- win -- win!

Regardless of how lovely our convention centre is, and how many empty rooms we have, people aren't going to choose Nanaimo over Vancouver and Victoria too many times for a convention. Honestly ... why would they??

However a truly unique, bustling retail centre will bring all of Nanaimo into the centre of town, all of the Island and then all of Vancouver and ultimately the world as our fame spreads far and wide for the delightful experience to be had visiting downtown Nanaimo's new arts and retail centre. Then we truly would be a tourist destination centre which would lead to jobs, jobs and more jobs generated by a people drawing wonder!!

Time to get out of the box, and then finally out of the rut! Time for some fresh, creative thinking which should be the natural product of our brand new, forward thinking visionaries recently elected to Nanaimo City Council.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will appear after moderation before publishing,

Thank you for your comments.Any comment that could be considered slanderous or includes unacceptable language will be removed.

Thank you for participating and making your opinions known.