Newsletter Signup

Leveraging our downtown/waterfront for economic development

As a community we will need to leverage this asset to spur economic development downtown. A first step is to decide what kind of downtown and waterfront we want.
Burlington downtown waterfront

Public meeting, Sept. 27, 7-9pm, Seniors’ Centre (Freeman and Indian Point rooms), 2285 New Street

Burlington downtown waterfrontOur waterfront/downtown is the “most popular cultural destination” mentioned by residents across the city, according to early findings from consultants working on the city’s Cultural Action Plan. The consultants will present those findings and invite feedback during a Cultural Action Plan “report back” public session, Sept. 27, 7-9pm, at the Burlington Seniors’ Centre on New St.

As a community we will need to leverage this asset to spur economic development downtown and across the city. A first step is to decide what kind of downtown and waterfront we want – is it a tourism draw? a cultural and entertainment hub? a heritage area? mostly for local residents? Once we land on a collective vision for our downtown and waterfront, we’ll need to take steps to get there.

This summer, I joined city staff at the “Transforming and Revitalizing Downtown Summit” in Hamilton, featuring local and international speakers. The focus was on ensuring a vibrant and health downtown – and because downtowns are historically on waterways, a healthy waterfront also. The conference identified the key drivers of vibrant waterfronts/downtowns, and outlined the steps municipalities can take. Some key themes emerged.

Investment by local governments.

Municipal incentives are often a deciding factor for companies looking to locate/ relocate downtown. There are many examples from the conference, but here’s one from our next door neighbour in Hamilton: Building on the work of urbanist Richard Florida, Hamilton identified attracting the creative class (people employed in media, design, architecture, the arts, a like industries) and a key component of revitalizing the downtown. The city invested in some creative class “mapping” to determine where these workers already work, and what they were looking for in a work environment. They found geographic clusters of workers – a creative class district, if you will, and took the next step: partnering with the private sector to leverage that new-found knowledge.

Partnership with the private sector.

Studies have shown that every $1 in public investment brings $3 to $5 in private sector investment. After Hamilton determined that many of its creative class workers were clustered on streets near the downtown (James, for example), they partnered with private commercial property owners to create a brochure of empty office space, and targeted it directly to creative class workers. Those brochures were dropped off in Toronto, in coffee shops and other places frequented by creative class workers. The sales pitch: have it all (funky workplace; downtown locale), but don’t pay through the nose (i.e. don’t pay Toronto prices).

A balance of residential/commercial development.

Most downtowns have more commercial than residential development. Burlington has two-thirds residential. But recent condo developments haven’t brought the “feet on the street” that daytime, year-round office presence will. The ideal mix is 50-50 office/residential, but the majority of developments downtown remain residential (see Development Updates below). We have an opportunity to leverage municipal land – parking lots 4 and 5 on Brant and John streets – to attract office redevelopment.

An aggressive, fully funded, business attraction strategy.

The Burlington Economic Development Corporation is tasked with business attraction, but must spend significant time on fundraising events to meet its budget. We need to fully fund the BEDC to free them to focus exclusively on bringing jobs to Burlington, and keeping them here.

Leveraging our downtown waterfront.

Events at Spencer Smith Park don’t always translate into a visit to the downtown, and we’re working to change that. The waterfront is a key driver for tourism and economic development, as well as a jewel for local residents. Though City Council voted to sunset the official waterfront citizens’ advisory committee, the citizen members unanimously agreed to continue their work, with support from my office. Details below.

My Take: The bottom line is this: Cities near us are taking these steps. If we don’t, we’ll be left behind. A recent report from the Real Estate Investment Network concluded the best places to invest in Ontario are our neighbours – Hamilton, Kitchener and Cambridge, and Waterloo. Burlington didn’t even make the top 10. We can change that, with a vision, concrete strategy and political will.

Receive new post notifications by email

What's your take?

Here are guidelines before you comment, and our expectations before we will post:

  • Be civil. Would you speak this way to a good friend? If not, rewrite.
  • Focus on the issues. Build your argument and make your case in support of your opinion from facts, research or other sources. That way we can all learn. “I disagree with so-and-so because…” is fine; “So-and-so is naïve/stupid  for thinking the way he/she does and here’s why…” is not acceptable.
  • Don’t make personal attacks. Don’t assume motives of those you disagree with, make unfounded allegations, spread rumours, or engage in any other behaviours that would discourage you from participating if someone said this to, or about, you. The Golden Rule applies: Do unto others as you would have done to you. We will edit or not post comments with this type of content.
  • Say it once: When comments from the same individual or individuals become repetitive, going over ground already stated, we reserve the right to close commenting.
  • Use your full, and real, name. If wish to make a comment in public, we expect you will publicly stand behind it with your name. If you don’t want to publicly reveal your name, that’s fine; you are always welcome to share your thoughts with me privately via my email below. I welcome and consider all feedback in making decisions for the community.
  • Have fun, consider and learn. Share your views and read those of others. May we all benefit from a healthy exchange of ideas, and learn a little more about the people in our community, what you think, and what’s important to each of you. You may end up changing your mind about an issue; even if you don’t, we hope everyone will gain a greater understanding of why people have different perspectives.
Marianne Meed Ward

Marianne Meed Ward

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

Newsletter Sign Up

Phone: 905-335-7607

Constituent Assistant: Georgie Gartside
905-335-7600, ext. 7689