Special Council – August 25, 2020

After years of planning and preparation, tonight, Council will be seeking the final approval to move forward with the construction tender and groundbreaking on the historic Library Square project.

In doing so, we will take the exciting last step in a decades long journey to translate ideas into action and realize a shared vision for the transformation of Aurora’s Downtown core.

We didn’t get here over night.  And we didn’t get here alone. Over the course of many years, thousands of residents, businesses and council members have directly contributed to this shared vision. And it is stronger for it.

Library Square has been a hot topic for decades and most certainly at every election cycle.  Every member sitting around this table has discussed, in length, the revitalization of our downtown core.  As have the members of many councils before us.

Why? Because we all recognize its importance, and that our downtown core IS Aurora.  It’s the very heart of our Town. It’s been that way for generations – the economic, social and cultural hub of our community.

Unfortunately, over time, our downtown, like many other communities, has been in decline. It has suffered from a lack of investment and we have struggled to bring the long anticipated vision for Library Square to reality. As a result, today, we have a downtown core that is in vital need of renewal.

Tonight’s approval is the next step in launching the Library Square project and overcoming the struggles we have had in achieving our Town’s vision.

This project is not just revitalization of our downtown core it is a reconnection. Reestablishing that connection is the key to rebuilding a vibrant local economy.

It represents a significant investment in the revitalization of our downtown core, but importantly, in Aurora as a whole, so we can realize Aurora’s potential to be a strong, vibrant, locally supported economy and community.

Building on the investments of the Library, The Armoury and Town Park, Library Square creates a destination for people to gather and businesses to locate and grow.

Library Square will have a complex of larger multi-use spaces and break-out rooms to provide businesses and community organizations a variety of options to hold their programs and annual events, thus providing spaces in our town that will give our residents a reason to continue to shop locally instead of neighbouring communities and provide our businesses an opportunity to grow and thrive.

We have all seen the power a well-designed public space can have, particularly when it comes to rejuvenating downtown.

Experiences in other communities make a strong financial case for investing in our downtown. Successful downtown revitalizations have triggered as much as $10 to $15 of private investment for every $1 of public investment. So in our case, our $51 million investment could ultimately generate over $500 million of private investment in Aurora in the years to come. These investments create residual positive effects for a thriving local economy and the ability to generate higher tax revenues, which will benefit all of us.

Despite the recognized need to invest in our downtown revitalization, nothing has been done to affect meaningful change. For decades now we’ve heard the same refrain “let’s go slow, let’s get more information, it’s not the right time to spend tax dollars”.  Decades of delay has led to further decay.

Our businesses and residents have made it clear, they want and deserve more.

We had a very competitive tendering process and received very cost-effective pricing due to many companies seeking projects to keep their people employed. Construction costs invariably rise each year. Delays today mean the project will cost more later.

Interest rates are currently low. As the economy improves, interest rates will rise.

We cannot continue to ride the merry go round of indecision.

The studies are done and we have a responsible funding plan in place that acknowledges our residents’ tax concerns and does not impact future tax rates.

As we seek to recover from the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, it’s clear that our local economy needs investment now more than ever. Now is not the time for inaction.

There has never been a better time make this investment in our community! Downtown needs our support now. Our community partners need programming space now. The longer we delay, the longer it will be before this critical element of our downtown revitalization plan can have a positive impact on our local economy.

Investment inspires investment. Pausing doesn’t stimulate the economy – it risks stagnating it.

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to speak directly to hundreds of residents and business owners and can say confidently that there is overwhelming support for this historic project

However, as is the case with any large-scale community project. The support is overwhelming but not unanimous.

I have listened to the views of those who say we should go slow or go smaller and acknowledge these sentiments.

However, I firmly believe now is not the time for a ‘smaller’ vision for aurora. We need to do this right the first time and take progressive action for a brighter future.

I am proud of the work the previous Council started and this Council will finish by taking the historic next step to making the long-term vision for our downtown core a reality.

Library Square is a community building project that will bring community and economy together.

Our downtown core will return to being a destination for residents, businesses and visitors alike and our commitment to its revitalization will be fulfilled.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi “The future depends on what we do in the present”

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