Absent at a recent BIA meeting were the angry rants and finger-wagging at business leaders and city officials that one might have expected, given the looming major downtown reconstruction. Instead, the tone and atmosphere was mostly buoyant.
At its recent AGM, leaders with the Lindsay Business Improvement Association each used the podium to boast of the organization’s achievements over the past year – with the crowd nodding, and often applauding, in agreement. If there was dissent, it was quiet. An invitation for questions came and went without takers.
The gathering, which was open to the public, drew about 50 people, mostly downtown business owners, as well as Mayor Andy Letham and City Councillor Pat O’Reilly.
Even the dearth of new businesses in 2019 offered a positive spin — since, pointed out BIA general manager, Melissa McFarland, it’s the result of a low downtown vacancy rate.
“And that’s good problem to have,” she told the crowd.
But the enthusiasm and optimism were guarded.
In his address, BIA board chair, Charlie McDonald, referring to the Kent Street infrastructure overhaul, conceded that, “2020 and 2021 are going to be very challenging years.”
The project will involve closing off sections of Kent Street, disrupting traffic patterns, while creating higher levels of noise and dust.
Still, McDonald, whose restaurant, The Grand Experience, will bear much of the construction’s brunt, told The Advocate following the meeting that he remains optimistic – but realistic.
“Yes, it’s going to be tough for downtown,” admitted McDonald. “But we knew it had to be done and it’s going to cause a lot of pain.”
He’s equally inspired, however, with how he and other soon-to-be affected businesses have been galvanized by the challenges that lie ahead, and how they’re working to support each other in order to come through those challenges.
McDonald cited discussions on improving public access to businesses’ rear entrances, as an example of what came out of the group’s conversations.
“Work with us, and we’ll work with you and we’ll try to make us all successful,” said McDonald about the BIA’s philosophy in the face of the construction.
“At the end of the day,” he added, “it’s going to be a beautiful downtown that’s going to last for the next 50 to 75 years.”
You can hear more about the Lindsay BIA’s recent AGM and how its members are bracing for Kent Street’s reconstruction project on Episode One of The Advocate Podcast – Stories from Kawartha Lakes. It premieres February 15 and will be available via iTunes, Spotify and at lindsayadvocate.ca.