Spending Money to Make Money
If We Build It, Will They Come?


A story in Monday’s Herald Star tells us that the city has begun a revitalization project for downtown Toronto. Let me begin by saying that I think this is a very good idea, but that it will not by itself revitalize anything. Wheeling has done the same kind of project with little or no benefit. Twenty some odd years ago, they did the same thing in Pittsburgh; and a few years later, they tried it on the north side (which they began calling the north shore as if that made a difference.)

The Toronto plan includes burying power lines to rid the street of unsightly utility poles, and replacing the streetlights with Victorian style fixtures. This will certainly improve the look of downtown, but will do little to attract new business unless the people respond by visiting the district and spending their money there.

Now, I must go off topic for a moment, but I’ll return to the topic in short order.

A few years ago, the city put a nice little park at the corner of Market and Fourth. For the most part, this park has attracted the loafing high school crowd. There have been episodes where city police have rousted these loafers for loitering. They do this because this “element” tends to scare off the more desirable element; the one with the money to spend. However, it begs the question; what is a park bench for if not to “loiter” on during a lazy afternoon? It also begs the question; what is an unemployed high-schooler to do if not loaf in a nice park?

Which brings me back on topic. If this money is spent, if this time is taken to plan and build and finish a revitalized downtown; what good will it be if children who are doing nothing worse than BEING children can scare off those it is meant to attract simply by standing on a corner?

Toronto will be a nicer place for business only when it is a nicer place to be a child. A youth harbor is not the answer, because nobody wants to maintain one, and the kids would only find it boringly pass’ anyway. An arcade would only exacerbate the problem. An under 21 type club would be even worse. So what is the answer?

First, the little park needs to be closed after -say – eight o’clock in the summer and 6 in the spring, fall and winter, so that loitering becomes trespassing; and it has to be closed to everybody, not just the kids. Second, a separate park away from downtown has to be opened 24 hours to take it’s place. This park would have to be near downtown, accessible to police cruisers, and in an area that the kids would find appealing. My suggestion is near the fire department, under the overhead bridge, but maybe somebody else has a better idea.

True, this would be a costly undertaking. It would need to be landscaped, paved, a shelter built, maybe a skating area, etc. But it’s not as costly as spending $184,000 to make a beautiful downtown that will only be enjoyed by loitering cashless teens.

By the way, I’m aware that everybody who loafs there isn’t a teen. Fear not. At Humbleo Park, all are welcome.

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