I was pleased to join the property owners in our downtown core to share the vision and direction of the Promenade and Downtown Aurora area. These are exciting times for our Town, but before I get into the details of the vision, I would like to provide a little background and context.
The Town of Aurora has seen steady growth since it was incorporated as a Village in 1863. Large periods of growth were experienced between 1951 and 1961 when the population rose by over 161%, and again from 1981 to 1991 when it rose by 81%. Since 2001, the population of Aurora has grown by over 15,000 people and is projected to grow by a further 24,000+ by 2051, to a total population of nearly 85,000.
As the population has grown, and will continue to grow, so too has interest in arts, culture, preservation of heritage and creating a unique downtown.
Downtown Vision – revitalized downtown that is vibrant
For more than forty years, numerous councils have discussed the revitalization of our downtown core. While there has been a variety of ideas to achieve this, everyone agreed that change was necessary to bring economic growth and vibrancy back into our downtown core.
Over the years, there have been a number of studies and plans for this area, but there are two in particular that I want to highlight today that have helped guide the vision for Aurora’s downtown and our current strategy.
In 2009, the Town initiated a secondary planning process for the Downtown Yonge/ Wellington Street Corridor. This resulted in the creation of a Concept Plan for the area now known as “The Aurora Promenade”. The Aurora Promenade Concept Plan aims to leverage the distinct heritage and culture of Aurora as an attraction or destination. Implementing policies were included in the Town’s Official Plan back in 2010 and are now coming up for review. I’ll cover more on that in a minute.
In September 2015, the Town created a Cultural Precinct Concept Plan. The plan was developed to create a new cultural hub to serve as a focal point for residents and tourists. It stated that this revitalization will attract and boost tourism, enhance the quality of life for residents and expand cultural resources in the community. Library Square was included in this plan which proposed, among other things, an addition to the current Church Street School property.
Fast forward to 2021, and we are seeing progress and projects are moving ahead.
Of significance, is the momentum that particular projects will generate in facilitating the downtown as a destination. The most talked-about project is Library Square, currently underway.
The Library Square Project is the largest capital infrastructure project the Town has ever embarked on and will serve as a catalyst for downtown revitalization. It is the culmination of years of planning that demonstrates that strategic municipal investment in the downtown will leverage further investment, foster employment opportunities and support downtown resilience.
Library Square includes two key spaces – a vibrant outdoor square that includes a reading area, amphitheater and water feature, and a new performing arts centre with seating for up to 250 people and a variety of multi-purpose programming spaces within. The new building is an addition onto the back of the historical Church Street School and will be connected to the library by an enclosed bridge that crosses over the square.
The Aurora Armoury
The Aurora Armoury (89 Mosley St) was designed and operated as an Armoury under the Department of National Defense. The Armoury itself is a heritage structure that represents a significant piece of Canadian and Auroran heritage. Located beside our Town Park, the property was acquired by the Town in September 2014 and restored into a creative, state-of-the-art culinary space.
If you haven’t been by to see this amazing space, and experience their food, you are in for a treat.
Leaders and Partners
One of the greatest assets in the town is the collection of great people. We are grateful for leaders in Aurora that step up and provide their insights, time and energy into helping realize future visions. There are many, and in particular, I want to highlight a few that are the Town’s critical partners helping to create Downtown Aurora as a destination.
- The Aurora Economic Development Corporation is a group of leaders that led the creation of the Economic Development Strategic Plan, and has a Downtown Committee dedicated to supporting growth and development in the Downtown.
- The Downtown Aurora BIA is a group of businesses and individuals that have a vested interest in the revitalization of the Downtown core. Newly created, just before COVID, this group will play an important role in communication and promotion of the activities in the area.
- The Aurora Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business, and the Chamber leaders have taken the lead in supporting businesses through COVID. They have also launched an ongoing campaign to highlight the success of businesses across the entire town. As well, they are the leaders in building ongoing capacity for growth and success of our local businesses.
- Niagara College and The Armoury. Again, just getting started before COVID, The Armoury team has transitioned in crazy times. The future plans and exciting events will encourage visitors to Aurora and the Downtown area.
Other News and Projects
If we have gained anything from COVID, it’s that the Town has had the opportunity to improve processes in many areas. Especially in our electronic information sharing and internal processes.
- For example, coming up in April, the Planning team will be launching an interactive mapping of all development projects underway. This map will highlight the location, project details, and concept drawings, if available. This tool will be a public mapping tool, and very helpful in identifying the projects in the town, especially in the Downtown.
- Additionally, our Building team is launching a two-phase, all-electronic process for submitting building permit applications. Staff will be able electronically review and issue permits. The first phase is scheduled for launch in April.
- Our Economic Development team has re-launched the Patio Program, that streamlines approvals for restaurant patio extensions. If you or your tenants are thinking about a patio for the summer, they can find the details on our aurora.ca website.
- The Aurora Economic Development Corporation has undertaken a ‘Target Sector Analysis’ that will provide us with specific business sectors that fit Aurora and its future. In particular, the report will share insight into the ‘creative’ economies, from a technology perspective, that may be an ideal fit for office and co-sharing spaces in the Downtown. More information will be shared about this report in the coming months.
- It’s important that we support our local businesses during these difficult times. Which is why the Downtown BIA, with help from the Town, will be launching a tool for businesses to help them track and trace health-related employee and customer interactions, ensuring compliance with COVID protocols. This will help ensure businesses are capturing the most relevant information, investigating possible points of infection transmission, and taking immediate action to minimize spread. More will be shared next week, or contact our Town EcDev team for details on how to access this free tool.
- And lastly, I’d like to emphasize the importance of sharing your thoughts. The Town’s Official Plan review is currently underway and will provide opportunities for you to provide input. In particular, we will be looking for feedback on how best to build the ‘road map’ on how Aurora develops over the next 30 years.
That is a high-level overview of the ideas, initiatives and policies that lead many projects and initiatives. While the transformation of Downtown Aurora is not overnight, there is clear interest and exciting momentum building. Collectively, these projects are designed to create Downtown Aurora as a destination for art, culture, culinary and creative economies.