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'The downtown represents the spirit of the city': Local groups calling for downtown revitalization with major catalyst projects

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Three downtown business organizations are advocating for the City of Regina to locate a new multi-purpose events centre and central library branch in the downtown core.

Regina's Downtown Business Improvement District (BID), Warehouse District, and Chamber of Commerce brought in an expert from New York as part of a speaker series. The Transform Downtown luncheons are aimed at transforming the city’s core.

“The downtown represents to the rest of the world the spirit of the overall city and indeed of a province,” said former International Downtown Association chair Tim Tompkins. “It is the economic driver. It’s where the tax base is and it can help support and pay for the services that the entire city needs.”

As the former president of the Times Square Alliance in New York City, Tompkins was a part of the revitalization Times Square has undergone in the last 20 years.

In his presentation Friday, he said thriving culture, art, and economy is what will bring people to the city centre.

“Half of it is simply celebrating what you’ve got,” said Tompkins. “This is a place that has great bones, great history and an enthusiastic set of people, entrepreneurs and creators that want to make things happen.”

To do this, the business districts are calling for at least two of the five proposed major catalyst projects to be located downtown.

“If not now, when?” asked Judith Veresuk, Downtown BID executive director. “With the interest of the library and an arena, all of those coming together in the last year makes downtown the place to be.”

“Fundamentally, we need people downtown whether they’re coming to visit from outside the city, from inside the city in the suburbs or live downtown” said Mayor Sandra Masters. “People are life.”

Masters said smaller cultural and artistic projects are easier to execute in the short term, but long term, the city needs the larger projects to keep visitors and residents coming back.

“Hopefully their experience on the smaller, more personal level is positive and it creates a habit of coming into our downtown.”

The city said it is continuing to look for ways to invest into downtown, looking at other centres for inspiration.

“The things people interact with are similar around the world,” said Masters. “Some of the things that draw people in a focused way are real opportunities for us.”

“The momentum that we all saw during the world juniors in Halifax and Moncton, that have downtown arenas, those things are achievable here,” said Veresuk. “The vibrancy in the downtown is something we can replicate.”

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