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Vibrant downtown is good for city

Posted on November 27, 2013 by Lethbridge Sun Times

“Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city

Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty

How can you lose?

The lights are much brighter there

You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go downtown

Things will be great when you’re downtown

No finer place for sure, downtown

Everything’s waiting for you”

Those words from Petula Clark’s hit song of the ’60s, “Downtown,” still ring true today. A city’s downtown core is its very heartbeat.

The Downtown Prince Albert website, pointing out the importance of downtown, says “Downtown is a symbol of:

• Community economic health;

• Partnership between the private and public sector;

• Local quality of life;

• Community pride;

• Community history.”

It also notes that downtown “is the heart of the community,” “is the location of a community’s unique businesses and buildings,” and “is where the arts and culture thrive.”

One can say the same about Lethbridge’s downtown core.

Lethbridge city council recognized the importance of the downtown area when it launched the “Heart of Our City Master Plan” in 2007. The Heart of Our City Revitalization Committee meets monthly to work on maintaining a healthy, vibrant downtown where people are happy to congregate.

The Downtown Lethbridge BRZ is doing its part to give people more reason to come downtown. As indicated in this week’s cover story, it recently held its annual Bright Lights Festival, and more fun is on the way with its first ever Black Friday promotion Nov. 29, to be followed Dec. 5-6 by Plaid Days.

A key aim of these promotions is to encourage citizens to shop locally, which helps keep consumer dollars in the community. That’s always a good recipe for a healthy local economy.

But besides the economic aspect, a vibrant, bustling downtown is a sign of a healthy city. In Lethbridge’s case, downtown is the home of a thriving arts and culture community, and has also seen the emergence of a robust live music scene in recent years as well. These types of amenities are important drawing cards in attracting visitors and new residents to the area.

Lethbridge has wisely preserved a good amount of early heritage in its downtown core. As a city expands, newer areas are far removed both physically and historically from the heritage that is rooted in the community’s core. Maintaining a reminder of that heritage through preservation of historical buildings and the creation of plaques paying tribute to local history is an important part of what downtown should offer.

Downtown is a fun place place to be as the holiday season approaches. In the words of Petula Clark, “Everything’s waiting for you.”

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