Smart growth in major urban centres has become more and more dominate amongst municipal decision makers in the last 15 years, but unfortunately the same can’t be said for the Niagara region or its 12 municipalities.
As the region grows it might be important we start to look at how smart growth initiatives can improve our communities, particularly our smaller downtown cores. In Ridgeway, the community saw the benefits of regional investment in their downtown core.
The Smarter Niagara Incentive Program allocated funds to the Town of Fort Erie and it has had positive impacts on the growth of the downtown core in Ridgeway. If you haven’t been to downtown Ridgeway recently, you should. New restaurants, shopping and music and art venue have all helped to keep Ridgeway residents in their community—investing in local businesses and participating in a growing arts and culture scene.
Unfortunately it seems that there is some concern amongst Fort Erie Mayor and town councillors that the Region will not be continuing this successful incentive program into 2018. Regional staff and Fort Erie regional councillor Sandy Annunziata have stated that while funds have been put on hold, the program will resume. We’ll have to wait until later this year to know for sure if Fort Erie and Ridgeway will continue to receive funding from this incentive program—let’s hope they do.
Municipal funding decisions like this one should not be stifled—they should be expanded. There are many principles to sustainable smart growth and one of those are reinvigorating downtown cores through targeted incentive funding--this creates create walkable and beautified neighbourhoods.
Not only is this style of promoted growth have both economic and environmental benefits, it creates a unique sense of community. A community that has residents opting to shop and participate right where they live.