Downtown Chatham Centre Aims to Revitalize Downtown Retail with Promenade Proposal

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The Downtown Chatham Centre wants to create a more pedestrian-friendly and social gathering environment as it continues to be Chatham-Kent’s premier shopping destination.

The Centre has put together a proposal to not only enhance the shopping area but also help revitalize the downtown of the southern Ontario community.

Regina Stockus, the mall’s manager of leasing and special events, said the challenge in the current economic environment is getting people downtown to shop and spend time.

“Now is an opportunity to resurrect new ideas. Shopping malls across Canada, especially in small towns, rural towns of less than 100,000 people like we are here in Chatham near Detroit, we are having our own mall challenge like malls across Canada,” she said.

“We have to be creative . . . It needs a spark. We’ve got to do something more.”

DCC is located in the heart of downtown Chatham, next to Tecumseh Park and the Thames River. It was built in 1982 and today has about 80 tenants over about 275,000 square feet. It occupies about two blocks of downtown main street – King Street.

“We are an important entity in this city,” she said.

Stockus has put together a proposal for the municipality’s officials to help rejuvenate Chatham’s downtown core.

This proposal serves not only to enhance our DCC but help the whole Downtown too. With so many stores closing, the area looks deserted. This is not good for the image of such a great and historical city like Chatham. We believe that if we do nothing, nothing will happen and the situation will worsen. Thus we believe a more aggressive alternate should be considered,” said the proposal.

“We all know that something has to be done to bring life back to the downtown core of Chatham. This is no easy task. But we have many talented and professional people working and living here in Chatham/Kent. We have the know how and we have the skills. We must, push forward and change our ‘Aversion To Risk/Criticism Mentality,’ and do what we know we must do to make Chatham the most modern and prettiest center in the province, maybe even the country.”

Ideas include:

  • Removal of all traffic from the street;
  • Removal of curbs and sidewalks, addition of new paving;
  • Consolidation of street furniture to facilitate pedestrian movement;
  • Improve connectivity in the city center;
  • Provide a high-quality and attractive environment;
  • Create a space that supports businesses;
  • Encourage a diverse range of people to live and spend time in the city center; and
  • Revitalize the city’s forgotten alleyways by turning them into vibrant laneways.

Stockus said the shopping centre has tried in the past year to put on a number of events to attract people there and to the downtown including art exhibits, line dancing, the 100-mile mall walk – events intended to bring people into the mall and to the area.

“The mall is not separate from the downtown. They’re joined at the navel,” she said.

Stockus said many big European cities have created a centre – a hub – of activity where people congregate to eat and drink and shop.

“The downtown needs something like that,” she said.

And the COVID-19 pandemic simply highlighted some of the issues and challenges that were already present in the downtown.

“This whole challenge of the downtown has been going on for quite some time. At least 10 years, I’d say. What is the solution? The solution is we have to do a paradigm shift. It has to change. It cannot be the same that it was,” explained Stockus. “We have to throw out the old shoes and bring in the new ones even though the old ones were comfortable.

“This is not a new idea. Many cities all have this. It’s not a new concept about a street closure and creating a hub . . . It’s not something new. It’s not insurmountable. It’s just a willingness.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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