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State of a Downtown Speaks Volumes About a City

Think of any city you’ve come to love. Whether it’s world renowned, a centuries-old classic or comparatively new and contemporary, every one of them has a vibrant place at its core – Downtown.

Downtowns are iconic and powerful symbols for cities. They often feature the most recognizable landmarks, distinctive businesses, vibrant streets and diverse people. Given that downtowns are typically among the oldest neighbourhoods in most cities, they offer insights into their cities’ past, present, and future; while giving you a sense of a city’s personality.

A city’s downtown has an important and unique role in economic and social development. Downtowns create a critical mass of activities where commercial, cultural, and civic activities are concentrated. This concentration facilitates business, learning, and cultural exchange. They are also often the hotbed of business creativity, neighbourhood activism, non-profit enterprise and economic diversity as well as a destination for visitors, seniors, and young talent.

Revitalization of downtown areas can be extremely challenging for a variety of reasons including but not limited to: balancing the needs of diverse uses and users unlike any other area in the city, making considerations for the car in an area primarily developed prior to the car-dominated culture of today, competing with development on the edge of the city where development opportunities are basically a clear canvas, and addressing areas that may be neglected, struggling, or contentious. The challenging process of downtown revitalization is continual and never complete – but it is always exciting and extremely rewarding.

Over the past two decades, with the guidance of the Heart of Our City Master Plan, much work has been accomplished to revitalize and strengthen Downtown as the symbolic and historic heart of Lethbridge. These successes are largely a result of the ongoing process of revitalization which incorporates projects, initiatives, incentives, and events hosted or supported by the City of Lethbridge, the Heart of Our City Committee, the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ), and the efforts of countless individuals who frequent and support the Downtown on a day-to-day basis.

Today, Downtown Lethbridge is a vibrant place distinguished by its rich past that is evident in architecture, streets, parks, and landmarks, which also reflect the community values that are unique to Lethbridge as a whole. Downtown is thus both a source and an expression of community identity and pride.

This new bi-weekly column will highlight some of the efforts going on behind the scenes to ensure that our Downtown remains a central gathering place where all Lethbridge residents have the opportunity to live, work, shop, play, dream, and connect.

I challenge every resident to help Our Downtown to be the best it can be. With our partners on the Downtown BRZ and the Heart of Our City committee, we encourage you to contribute to the content of this column with us on Twitter (@DowntownLeth) using the hashtag #ourdowntown with you on comments, questions, ideas, and suggestions.

*This column was published August 27, 2018 in the Lethbridge Herald.

Categories: Downtown, DowntownRevitalization, Revitalization, vibrant, business, neighbourhood
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