UR Opinion

Rehabilitation over Expansion

Michael Simonds

By Michael Simonds

It could be said that West Ridge is Orillia’s new True North – an easy-access, all-encompassing economic corridor comprised of beckoning bold letters and prices so low they’re almost criminal. Almost.

It could also be said that West Ridge is the last beacon of hope for a stagnating city – a stark contrast of youth and life when compared to the decaying borough that has become downtown Orillia.

Finally, it could be said that the continued expansion of West Ridge is just what Orillia needs to ensure a successful future.

I would never say these things, however.

As we approach election season and potential candidates for council inevitably come out of the woodwork, it’s our duty as voters to ensure the next four years are more fruitful than the last. That means pushing for answers regarding the continued sustainability of the city.

It’s tempting to believe that the continued expansion of West Ridge is the solution to all of our problems – that we should be comparing our successes to those of Barrie, a city that has seen very successful continued growth over the last 15-plus years.

Orillia, however, is not Barrie. We do not need to expand in order to be successful. We do not need Big Box Stores and Flashy Brand Names.

What we do need is to see the many vacant-and-unappealing storefronts filled with unique and compelling business ventures.

What we do need is to continue to support rehabilitation of the downtown sector before considering further expansion, which is nothing but a bandage-remedy for a situation that will continue to degrade for as long as it’s left unchecked.

What we do need are people in office who support those values and have creative and thoughtful solutions that will breathe life into the already existing sectors.

There is more to Orillia than the tempting signage visible from the turnpike. We need to encourage travellers, shoppers, and citizens to continue to frequent the beautiful parks, waterfronts, and feels-like-home shops that comprise the heart of our city.

--- Michael Simonds

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