Belleville has an exciting future ahead with plans for waterfront expansion in the works.
That was the message shared by Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher in his state of the city address hosted by the Belleville Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
The mayor touted a renewed focus on the waterfront praising many completed infrastructure projects that have paved the way for expansion and development on an “untapped unique and natural asset.”
“We’ve has been hitting a grand slam with infrastructure projects so now we need to take our energies to the waterfront and look and the private and commerce sector to partner with us to get some developments down there,” he said.
On May 25 staff and council will be taking a retreat to map out major residential and commercial expansion along the waterfront that could include restaurants and water sport equipment rentals.
Mark Fluhrer, Director of Recreation and Culture unveiled waterfront designs during the last council retreat. He said he is excited to start looking at where the city is going for the next 10 to 15 years.
Pointing to a prosperous 2017, the mayor said there are many projects on the horizon to be exited about including: phase 3 of the downtown revitalization project that includes the reconstruction of the lower bridge between Bridge and Pinnacle Streets to complement the high pedestrian area for residents and families; a new Gateway feature promoting tourism; phase 2 of the Northeast industrial park and the expansion of the Yardmen Arena and welcoming of the City’s new American Hockey League team – the Belleville Senators. He also promoted Canada 150 celebrations, the City’s 200th Birthday, the art festival and the waterfront and ethnic festival as huge, exciting events.
The mayor said since the last census the City has grown 2.6 per cent praising the increase as one of the largest growth rates within a city of Belleville’s size anywhere in Ontario. He said last year the City tagged $121 million in construction and the latest figures show $24 million so far this year with 64 residential units, the redevelopment of the former Zeller’s site, an apartment building on Sidney Street, a new hotel on Bell Blvd and the new Military Resource Centre on Dundas Street East. He revealed expansion in the queue at Proctor and Gamble and Division Foods along with more he couldn’t say publicly right now.
He said more than 100 businesses have started in the area within the last 11 months and with the employment insurance rate sitting at 5.2 per cent, he beamed the City has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the province two times running.
He also praised an increase in average home prices now around $293,000, a considerable increase from $229,000 in March 2016.
Lastly he commended the City for making big moves in accessibility and cycling. He called the City’s recent active transportation accolades as an “unprecedented achievement.”