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The Hub has recently published the comments of candidates for the Owen Sound council. Regarding revitalization of downtown, there was a striking lack of information regarding economic development studies done elsewhere in Ontario.

Recently, I received a trade newsletter through the mail that contained a detailed and highly informative summary of a study done by consultants hired to determine what actually makes successful downtown areas successful. A major theme involved the need to create a destination place with a pleasant atmosphere that draws people (local as well as visitors) and fosters socializing and relaxing rather than just the more mundane services.

One item in the study addressed the required density of services (i.e. restaurants or boutiques) essential to creating a sense of a destination. (This is why banks and auto dealers tend to cluster together.) This isn't guesswork. It's based on actual marketing research.

Other items address available parking that does not present an obstacle to downtown businesses (no big surprise here.) A friendly and vibrant downtown is fostered by bringing products and services out of the stores and onto the sidewalks. This goes well beyond cheesy sidewalk sales toward the atmosphere of an upscale outdoor market.

There is no shortage of studies already completed and much more extensive than those that Owen Sound can pay for themselves. Owen Sound needs to put more effort into investigating studies that are already available, done by marketing professionals using credible methods on a larger scale. Small towns and chambers of commerce all over Europe and the Americas struggle with the problem of keeping their downtowns viable. There is no reason for Owen Sound to attempt to recreate the wheel with a handful of city staff.

Lynne Marie Sullivan
Owen Sound

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