A Downtown Revival

It’s hard to pin-point exactly when the turnaround downtown started as it evolved slowly. I’ll say, it was about two years ago when Array Hair Studio opened across from Geronimo Coffee House at 201 Prescott. Array brought a nice upscale business that seemed to fit everyone’s vision of what Old Town Kemptville could be. Then Terri and Lee McIlvenna bought and built Geronimo’s into a thriving business that not only opens nice and early but now seven days a week. Recently Array moved a few steps north and bought the building at 115 Prescott across from the CIBC. Like To Be Continued‘s second expansion in just four years, it’s another concrete example of business confidence in the future of Downtown Kemptville.

Since January of this year however the pace has picked up noticeably. Next door to Array’s new location, we’ve seen 113 Prescott, the former Kemptville Advance building leased to the professional engineers of ISI Controls Inc. Setanta Solutions Inc, another professional IT service, now occupies 206C Prescott just south of Voice2Net which opened last year at 200 Prescott. Exit Realty By Design celebrates the Grand Opening of their realty office this Wednesday at 310 Prescott and Integrated Business Solutions Group is in the process of opening offices at 28 Clothier Street East. Up in the Rideau-Sanders Triangle, Andrew Beveridge CPA opened shop at 200 Sanders and across the street at 215 Sanders, the North Grenville Times now has an office on the ground floor (side entrance).

The new growth downtown hasn’t all been just professional services however. We have new investment downtown through new owners of the Kemptville Academy of Martial Arts (formerly Tekken MAA), Brewing Oasis, the South Branch Bistro (formerly the Branch Restaurant) and the Clothier Mills Inn Motel across the street. The Bowen Approach is now located at 3 Clothier and Get Cronk’d , a new fitness business at 9 Clothier (behind), has just hired a new trainer! GlowSport – Kemptville, The Glow Entertainment Company is opening soon at 29 Clothier Street East. By the Prescott Bridge both 10A and 10B Prescott have been leased – look for a number of innovative businesses housed at those locations opening soon. The Prim Shed at 419 Rideau Street and the Posh Plum at 207 Prescott opened just a few months ago. Just last week New Energy Kreations began renovations of a new showroom at 132 Prescott, which will greatly improve the streetscape of that section of Prescott, in other words, the broken window has been replaced.

(Ken Schliemann stands outside his new showroom for New Energy Kreations with Array Hair Studio reflected in the window)

We all look forward to see what will occupy the former Butler’s Victorian Pantry (currently being renovated by new owners) and who will be the new tenants of the vacant storefronts recently leased, such as Array’s former location. The BIA will be working hard this Fall and Winter to help fill the last of the available commercial spaces downtown. Look for even more Grand Openings in the months to come.

 

Friends of Downtown

Published in the North Grenville Times (July 5th, 2017)

On June 28th I attended the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affair’s Teeny Tiny Summit in Merrickville. The summit was an opportunity to learn and discuss “scale appropriate” economic development. For all our much vaunted urban-style amenities, Kemptville is still very much a small rural town with all the typical development problems of other teeny tiny places, so I was very interested in attending.

The keynote speaker was Peter Kenyon, a self described “social capitalist and community enthusiast” from Western Australia. A dynamic speaker, he shared a number of amazing examples of how very small rural communities had transformed themselves from the inside out using imaginative, positive thinking community members rather than government-driven programs or philanthropy, The range of ideas and projects initiated by ordinary citizens to turn their community’s economy around was truly inspiring. Not that these ideas can be replicated successfully in other communities. Each found their own unique solution to declining population and job loss. The “take away” was the power of positive thinking and the confirmation that “People who care are a community’s greatest asset” (Paul Born)

I was reminded of what our community has accomplished by the vision and dedication of ordinary people; of what the Friends of the Library and the Friends of Ferguson Forest have accomplished; of what the various faith communities in North Grenville have built and I started to wonder might be accomplished in Kemptville by Friends of Downtown. Could it be, as Peter Kenyon suggested a number of times that “we are the ones we’re waiting for” to create a vibrant, thriving and resilient economy downtown?

The community of Oxford Mills got tired of waiting for the Municipality to replace the gazebo in Maplewood Park and did it themselves. Take a look at what they accomplished by having a vision and a belief in themselves. Great things can happen when people get together. When they share their talents, time and treasure in the service of an idea.

Does North Grenville want a walkable, bicycle friendly downtown with adequate parking; an outdoor rink and splash pad in Riverside Park; a trail running along the South Branch connecting Ferguson Forest to the downtown parks (Curry, Rotary, Post Office and Riverside). Does it want to preserve and celebrate it’s unique history and it’s built heritage? Do we want to retain and increase the number of unique businesses downtown?

This is a call to action to those with a positive outlook – to find others who share their vision of the type of downtown they want. Start figuring out a way to bring it about. The BIA has a Facebook page you can post to – find it here. We publish a weekly newsletter, subscribe to it here. Both will provide you with information about issues and events downtown. Start a conversation with a neighbour or friend.There are some things money can’t buy and one of them is community. Community has to be built and built by participation.

Stop waiting for someone or something else to make things better. Let’s GitR Dun!