It’s hit or miss whether the performing arts centre referendum will pass. The Yes side has come out strong, with all sorts of social media, lawn signs and forums. Meanwhile the No side has mainly focused on leafleting the city and some media time from former city councillor Nelly Dever.
Based on publicity, I’d go with the Yes side. Given that I’ve voted Yes in the advance poll, I hope I’m right.
The Yes side has the much harder task. If the No side wins, and the performing arts centre isn’t built, then nothing changes. And for people who are happy with more of the same, then that’s a good thing.
Perhaps it’s okay if nothing changes. Perhaps more of the same is okay.
But what is more of the same?
Year after year, downtown of Kamloops has been dying. Year by year, retail stores have closed and empty store fronts appear. Stores stay empty for months, or longer. Office space stays empty as well. While more and more retail is built up the hill, building lots sit empty. The downtown is dying. Slowly, but still it is in decline.
More of the same is slowly watching the downtown shrink while offices and retail move up the hill.
If nothing changes, then in five years, or perhaps ten, or a little longer than that, the downtown will be dead.
Sure there may be stores, but not the funky shoe stores, artisan goldsmiths and Italian delis. Stores in dead downtowns are considerably more low brow. And dining options are equally dreary.
We’ve all been to towns which have dead downtowns. They have boarded up buildings, empty sidewalks, and sorry looking shops.
Kamloops has a great downtown, but we can’t be complacent. We can’t think that doing nothing is the right thing to do. If nothing changes, if there aren’t new things to draw people to the downtown, the downtown will slowly die. If our community isn’t willing to invest in the downtown, it will wither away.
Perhaps that’s okay, but I don’t think so. The downtown is where Boogie the Bridge, the Santa Claus parade, Remembrance Day, Hot Nite in the City, and a host of special events happen. Downtown is where people go to the farmers’ market and to the art gallery. From flip flops to bridal wear, there is a huge array of fashions. From early morning to late at night, there are restaurants or bars that one can go to.
By investing in a performing arts centre downtown, the community invests in the core of the city, where our community gathers.
If the No sides wins, then we all lose. We lose not only having another great place for people to gather together to watch their children’s ballet performances or an aging rock star, we also lose the chance to reinvigorate the downtown, to help it thrive.
Kamloops downtown is one of the best in Western Canada. Let’s keep it that way. Vote YES to the performing arts centre.