A vibrant downtown core is a key piece in any community.
That’s why all three tiers of government are setting aside funding to help revitalize downtowns as well as provide funding to jump start economic growth.
Quinte News ventured through the downtown cores in Belleville, Trenton and Picton to see how things have changed in a year when it came to vacant store fronts.
In 2018, things appeared to either be status quo or improving in the three municipalities.
Here in Belleville, of the 105 storefronts, 32 were vacant which is a slight improvement over the 37 in 2017.
Down the road in Trenton, there are 14 empty store fronts of their 84 businesses. This is up from 10 last year.
Across the bridge in Picton, there are 11 of 144 stores vacant, which remains unchanged from 2017.
A couple of steps forward, followed by a few steps back is how Karen Poste, the Manager of Economic and Strategic Initiatives for the City of Belleville describes it.
When it comes to making the downtown core vibrant again in Belleville, Poste says it has been a rough couple of years.
She does say now that construction is wrapping up there is an increased interest in the downtown area from businesses as well as residential development.
The final phase of construction in Belleville’s core is currently underway and expected to wrap up this fall. Phase 3B includes work on McAnnany Street, Market Street and Front Street (from Bridge Street East to Dundas Street East). The project started on March 5 with the closure of McAnnany Street. Construction is scheduled for completion in October 2018.
The effort being made to bring new businesses to the downtown core has been paying off.
Linda Lisle, Quinte West Manager of Economic Development and Tourism says there has been a lot of new interest for them.
She says at this time last year, they had fewer vacancies when it comes to downtown.
She says some businesses have moved from the downtown to other locations, but 10 businesses have come on board.
Lisle says Trent Port Marina, being proactive, and their shop local initiative have really helped attract businesses to their downtown.
Neil Carbone, the Director of Community Development in Prince Edward County says they are taking a different approach when it comes to their downtown core.
He says there has been new business interest in the County and not just in the downtown core.
Carbonne says another high point for Picton is that business has stayed steady, even in the shoulder season.
Each community has spent the money to rebuild, rebrand and refurbish their downtown cores in an attempt to make them the vibrant part of the communities they once were, and it looks like there may just be a bright light at the end of a long construction-filled tunnel.