Councillors trash Riversdale plan

By Charles Hamilton, The StarPhoenix, February, 26, 2014 - Celebrity ambassadors and a city-wide marketing campaign are not the way to improve the look and feel of the Riversdale neighbourhood.

City councillors panned a $50,000 study that pitched the marketing ideas as a way to rebrand the Riversdale neighbourhood.

"If any consultant comes and says 22nd Street should be the gateway to Riversdale, they should be ignored," Ward 2 Coun. Pat Lorje told a meeting of council's planning and operations committee Tuesday. The plan, prepared by MMM Group Limited out of Toronto, sets out some ambitious goals for the neighbourhood that are meant to attract more businesses and people to the area.

The study recommends a marketing campaign that would be spearheaded by "Riversdale champions" who would be public figures encouraged to promote the area. It also suggests making 22nd Street - not 20th Street - the "gateway" to the neighbourhood.

The study also encourages bringing more people to the area by hosting live entertainment, and other events and providing incentives for developers.

Lorje said while some of the ideas aren't terrible, they don't mesh well with the current plans for the area. She said the plan should be shelved permanently.

"(20th) Street is being slowly renovated. That's where the residents would like to see the energy go ... that is not where Riversdale is at," she said.

Deborah Graham, the president of the Riversdale Community Association, said she wasn't aware of the specifics of the consultant's report, but she endorses anything that would try to improve the image of the neighbourhood. "For a neighbourhood that has been maligned for so long, I think that's what you have to do: jump over that," she said.

While councillors on the committee agreed with Lorje about the problems with the study, they wanted to make sure not everything in the report is ignored. "I just don't want to see it all flushed down the toilet," Coun. Charlie Clark said.

A big problem with the report is that much of the data is out of date, the committee heard. The most recent retail rent information, for example, was from 2010. Since then, Lorje said, it's widely known that the price of real estate in the area has gone up and a number of new businesses have opened.

"What happened in 2011 is light years away from what is happening now," Lorje said.

The Riversdale Business Improvement District is working on a 10-year plan that is expected to be released later this year. The committee heard that some of the information contained in the report could make its way into that wider, long-term strategy for the neighbourhood.

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