Urban Regeneration in Downtown London

On November 24, 2017, the LYAC held a discussion on urban regeneration in the downtown core of London, Ontario. The council was asked a number of questions and this report captures their thoughts and answers to questions about perceptions of downtown, whether they need to be changed, and what needs to change.

Who Should Read This?

  • People who live, work, and play in downtown London
  • Anyone invested in the growth and regeneration of downtown London

How do you describe downtown London?

  • Average.
  • The parks are pretty, but overall the downtown is lame and uneventful.
  • It has everything you need in a downtown, but outside of Christmas time it is a pretty depressing place.
  • Not accessible for wheelchairs, sidewalks sometimes narrow
  • Parking is pretty bad, myself and my friends will go somewhere else for dinner when parking is having to be paid
  • If you want to go party, downtown is a place to go. There are lots of places to eat, and if you want cultural things like museums. However, there is no supermarket.
  • Downtown is awkward. The classical music at the McDonald’s at Dundas and Richmond seems like it is mocking people who are doing sketchy things.
  • I saw a random toilet in a parking lot one time downtown
  • Downtown is sketchy. One member of the group said they didn’t think they had been there once without being confronted or having someone yell at them.
  • Toronto’s downtown is a lot more busy, but they know how to drive.
  • Comparing it to Toronto
  • There are nice pockets like the market and the library, but the downtown isn’t super walkable.
  • Downtown is unaffordable.

Why do you go downtown?

  • To get a bus transfer
  • To get to meetings
  • To work, to go eat
  • Community events
  • To study at a coffee shop
  • To see a show at the Grand Theatre
  • To look at architecture

Is downtown safe?

  • Totally not safe, something could happen
  • One person goes with a buddy to throw out garbage at their downtown workplace
  • If there weren’t any people in downtown it would be safer.
  • A lack of police presence makes it less safe. On the other hand, more police presence may be more intimidating to people. The experience with the police can either be intimidating or reassuring depending on someone’s identity and what that relationship is with the police.
  • One person shared that they’ve never been approached for money and have actually had some good conversations. They added that they’ve been catcalled more in Oakridge than downtown.
  • One person shared that they feel more unsafe when they’re alone downtown as opposed to when they are with people.

What does downtown London need?

  • More downtown investments and promotion of downtown.
  • The flex street, and more pedestrian-friendly areas.
    • However, traffic might be an issue, people might not pay attention to the rules
    • Fines for congestion only hurt people who can’t afford it all the time, and the rich will just continue to pay it
  • HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes
  • Re-routing the city trains
  • Supermarket chains.
    • Some people disagree and like that downtown is focused on small businesses.
  • Controversial events downtown or interesting buildings
  • More affordable/free spaces and shops.
  • Better accessibility: level sidewalks and accessible doors.
  • Green spaces, but not just fields – actual parks with trees.
  • To get rid of the metal trees.

What do we think of the new report that came from Downtown London’s consultation of Live Learn Work Play?

Does London have a drug problem or issues with street culture?

  • One person shared that they don’t see a lot of drug use when they downtown, although they do see people who might look like they use drugs.
  • What is “street culture?” One person shared that they someone in a suit using, but that’s not “street culture” as reports seem to define it.
  • The report sounds like it’s advocating “cleaning up downtown” by getting rid of certain people.
  • There are a lot NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitudes, where people would rather drug users throw needles into bushes than have needle boxes.
  • There’s a perception methadone clinics draw certain types of people, despite most of their clients being middle class.
  • We tend to isolate groups of people, and attempts to push resources out of downtown won’t solve any problems.
  • We need to have campaigns to counteract the stereotypes and assumptions people make of homeless or vulnerable populations.
  • One person asked: do we even need to “clean up” people in downtown? Maybe it’s okay, and people should be able to choose to do what they want. At a certain point we are saying, “I don’t like these people, so we should make them change.”

What perspective is the Live Work Learn Play report being written from?

  • It’s being written for the white, middle-class, male.
  • It’s written from the perspective of businesses who are trying to drum up business, with a want to placate to customers who don’t want to see the issues of downtown’s vulnerable population

How do we create more inclusive plans for revitalization?

  • Go out and ask people for feedback who don’t have the resources/time to attend things like public participation or vote because they feel like their opinions aren’t valued
  • Try to put the issues of other social groups on the agenda
  • Prioritizing the most vulnerable population first, instead of focusing on making the space pretty.

Big Questions

  • What do we mean when we use the term “urban regeneration”? Is it just about making a place more fun and attractive? Who gets left behind in popular definitions of urban regeneration?