Sunday, March 27, 2011

Downtown, where all the lights are bright...

So here I am living in downtown London at last. What a joy to no longer have to commute to work, just stroll out the front door and be at my job in 10 minutes. No traffic jams. No sliding all over the roads in winter. And Victoria Park is right across the street; my little old pooch and I have enjoyed several perambulations there already. I'm looking forward to walking to the Central Library, the JLC, the Old Courthouse, etc. without having to get the car out.

Nothing's perfect, of course. There are a few problems downtown. I knew what they were before I moved here. Still, now that I'm a resident of "the core" they're bugging me. So here's my pet peeve list:

Jenny's Top 10 List of Things Needed in Downtown London:
1. A grocery store. Currently the closest grocery store to where I live is near Oxford and Richmond. It doesn't carry a lot beyond the basics. Thank goodness I still have a car and can drive to a bigger store in the suburbs. If I didn't own a car, I'd hate to lug several bags of groceries home on a bus. Of course one can do one's shopping downtown if one visits several different locations, eg. Covent Garden, the Bulk Barrel, etc. but it's nice to have a one stop shopping place.

2. More free parking. Where's the incentive for anyone in Masonville or White Oaks to shop downtown when they can drive to a suburban plaza that's closer and park for free? But don't hold your breath - the city makes over $1 million a year from parking metres.

3. Lower priced housing, including rentals. After eight months of looking, I found a home I can (almost) afford. Parking's not included but all utilities are. And it's large enough to hold all of my junk. At the moment I'm renting but one day I'd like to buy a home, preferably downtown. It's nice that the second Renaissance Tower will offer a $1 million penthouse. Gosh, do you think it would hold all my house plants?

4. More trees. I mean real trees, not those "artistic" creations the London Downtown Business Association has put everywhere. Last I checked this is the Forest City, not the Fluorescent Scrap Metal City.

5. More bicycle lanes. No, I don't have a bike myself (other than the exercise bike in my bedroom that I really am going to get back to using sometime). But there's a reason why I don't own a bicycle. It's not safe to ride a bike on the streets of this city and I refuse to endanger pedestrians by riding on the sidewalk. Let's get some dedicated bicycle lanes downtown to encourage cyclists.

6. Some classy establishments on Dundas. By "classy" I mean like Kingsmill's, Attic Books, and the Jonathon Bancroft-Snell Gallery. Not like tattoo parlours, pawn shops and all the empty decaying store fronts. We need incentives to bring first-rate businesses downtown and to encourage Londoners to visit them.

7. A real historical museum. London needs one interesting, informative historical museum highlighting the city's development and accomplishments, preferably one in a heritage building (psst - there's an unused central library on Queens and an empty normal school in Wortley Village). London does not need that object on Ridout Street that looks like a bunch of thermos bottles lying on their sides.

8. Free concerts in the churches. Many of the churches in downtown London, England hold free noonhour classical music concerts, increasingly popular with office workers on their breaks. It's a great way to offer some tasteful entertainment and get people back into the churches for a few minutes. While there, visitors could check out our imposing ecclesiastical architecture and might even drop a few coins into the church coffers as a way of saying thank you.

9. More historic plaques. I don't know how many times I've walked past an interesting old building and thought "What a great place! Wonder who built it?" or "Gee, what did that use to be?" We need more commemorative signs to tells us these significant details. While we're at it, we could develop up-to-date historic walking tour booklets to go with them.

10. Fewer Farhi signs. I know I've ranted about this before, but does every second building need a Farhi banner? We already know the guy owns most of downtown.

If there's an 11, it's that London needs some spring weather so I can explore the downtown core without shivering. But I'm sure the hot air coming from City Hall will warm me nicely...