EDCNS tours ‘good, bad, ugly’ of Midland core

Derek Howard – Midland News

Midland is a beautiful town, but it can be better.

That was the incentive behind a walkabout tour put together by the Economic Development Corporation of North Simcoe (EDCNS) along with members of the Downtown BIA.

They were joined this week by business consultant Leslie Fournier to walk from the base of King Street to the top of the hill at Yonge, examining the newly constructed downtown core as well as the town’s businesses, murals and overall beauty.

Various stops along the way invited conversation within the small group, attended by EDCNS executive director Suzanne McCrimmon, Saturday Afternoons owner and local councillor Bill Meridis, RoyalTea on King and BIA board of director Roberta Douglas, and The Mouse Trap owner Sarah Kestle.

No sooner had the group reached the corner of King St. and Dominion Ave. when Fournier stopped in front of the vacant storefront formerly known as The Crow’s Nest.

“We have to look at the good, the bad and the ugly too,” said Fournier. “So tell me about this building and why is it vacant?”

Fournier, the founder of the Streets Alive program in Orillia, was compiling photos and notes from the walkabout for a presentation to be presented that evening at the Midland Public Library, available for all residents to view.

Along the way, conversations included mural upkeep and restoration, visible signage through non-winter tree foliage, oversized billboards, cruise ship arrivals and tourists, and how to advertise effectively through tourism.

At RoyalTea on King, Fournier took time to point out what was being done right in her eyes.

“This is fabulous,” stated Fournier. “A lot of the elements that we talk about are right here.

“We talk about layering, and having things come out from flat façades. The canopy, the flags, the signage, the table, chair, planter that will eventually be filled–”

Douglas interjected that her plants hadn’t arrived, and Kestle added that some businesses were unsure of what was and what wasn’t permitted for outer decoration.

The conversation cut short when one of the town residents loudly uttered obscenities and threats a short distance away to an unknown party. The walkabout group quieted, but resumed their conversation without bringing it up even as pedestrians quickly crossed the street away from the individual.

When asked by MidlandToday how a community can feel safe in times when such instances occur, Fournier replied that engaging all members of the community in understanding can aid in those situations. She added that within Orillia, a social worker had been hired to engage the community which helped recognize and help such individuals.

“I think it speaks for itself when the street is busy and full, and there’s music and activity. People are out enjoying themselves. I think it’s intrinsic,” Fournier added.

Another distraction during the walkabout came from various pay-and-display parking machines located along King St.

Even as the BIA members served up their gripes regarding the flaws of lack of communication to residents and ease of use, one resident within earshot was seen having difficulty retrieving her ticket stub to display only to obtain it well after two minutes had passed.

In another moment, Meridis left the group to attend a troubled couple in front of Midland Furniture, who couldn’t see the south-facing display due to the overhead glare of the noonday sun.

The topic of absentee landlords and vacant storefronts were also touched upon. One building was speculated to have had squatters on their rooftop, contributing to possible mould where water had seeped through holes where tents had been pitched. Discussions of asbestos concerns also arose for the heritage buildings throughout the downtown.

Overall, the group dutifully made their way toward Yonge St. while Fournier admired the murals of Wendake Way alley and noted how businesses spreading to side streets was a positive indication of a vibrant core.

The community presentation by Fournier was to be presented at the Midland Public Library later that evening for community discussion and to share insight and ideas for the downtown core.