|Posted by Darryl Wolk on July 9, 2016 at 3:55 PM|
Newmarket's historic downtown has huge potential and helps give Newmarket its identity. To reach its full potential, many things have to happen.
Parking has been an issue in the downtown since the invention of the car. It is time to address an obvious problem. We immediately need a parking structure. This will require moving the tennis facilities. Additional parking would support businesses on Main and also allow for larger events at Fairy Lake and Riverwalk Commons.
I believe in the summer Main should be closed to cars between Water and Park Street on weekends. A pedestrian street would allow for more patios, street sales and festivals. The more people we can draw downtown, the more prosperous businesses will be.
The key to our downtown is to make it a gathering spot for our residents. I believe festivals are key to this, but Newmarket Jazz Festival and the Caribbean & South Asian Showcase have moved away from the downtown. I would like to see a "Newmarket Day" celebrating all things Newmarket as a major summer event. I would also like to see the return of Fall Fair and the Hot Air Balloon Festival. We need to invest in people, not perks.
The Old Town Hall will finally open years behind schedule and millions over budget. It does not make sense to hide this huge investment and important part of our history behind a wall of condos or rentals. I do not support a tall buildings in our heritage district. Tall buildings belong on Yonge and Davis, not Main Street. Approving the current Clock Tower proposal would open the floodgates elsewhere and waste all the tax dollars invested into preserving our heritage buildings and revitalizing Main Street. I believe the heritage district should be expanded to include Prospect, Lorne and Queen. I do support residential redevelopments consistent with the current bylaws in the heritage district at the Clock Tower and King George locations to attract more people into the heritage district. The Tannery could be a potential spot for a condo as it is a transit hub, connected by the trails and close to the downtown. The Tannery has so much potential and it makes me sad it is empty and underutilized. We need a proactive approach in our downtown, we cannot simply react as things happen.
I would like to see more public art in the historic downtown and along our trail system. Fairgrounds, Fairy Lake and Lions Park deserve more investment to maximize the downtown as a community gathering spot for recreation, arts and culture. These would be perfect locations for outdoor rinks, splash pads, basketball courts and enhanced recreational facilities. For safety reasons we need a crosswalk on Water Street at Fairy Lake. Let's get people active downtown. After investing so much into the Old Town Hall, we must make sure it is affordable to local artists. Newmarket can build on its famous residents in comedy, acting, music and sports.
There has been lots of talk about a new library, but lets simply get it open on Mondays. Newmarket invests the least per-capita into its library and there is no reason it cannot be open 7 days a week right now. The Seniors Centre is an embarrassment and should be torn down and rebuilt at its current location. It does not make sense to spend millions on the Old Fire Hall for a few parking spots or a house for artists. At a minimum use it to expand the Museum. Down the road the Town Hall may have to be replaced with the new potential Mulock GO Station. An opportunity exists across from the Tannery to merge the Chamber, Seniors Centre, Town Hall, Library and potentially other civic services.
The Newmarket BIA is working very hard and investors have cleaned up Main Street in recent years. They should be treated with respect and not contempt as we have seen from this Council. They deserve our support. With the right marketing, we could compete with Unionville and attract people from around the GTA to the downtown area. We need to recruit the right kind of businesses to ensure the street thrives. With the banks moving out, new opportunities are possible. Newmarket Council should listen to the 1200 people who signed a petition against the Clock Tower proposal and focus on the priorities that would allow our historic downtown to reach its full potential and thrive again as it did in its heyday when the town was first formed. A compromise is possible within the by-law. No land swap should be completed unless the community embraces the vision of the proposal. We need to unite the downtown, Quaker Hill and all of Ward 5 behind a common vision for Newmarket. It is time to unleash our downtown's potential!