Moncton has for as long as I am aware had one major problem affecting almost all downtown development.
The issue of available parking and the options found in other outlying areas that incorporated free parking.
Before the existence of the Trinity Power center, as poorly laid out as it is, there was little shopping in the north end with both Moncton Mall (now the Northwest Center) and Kmart Plaza (now Mapleton Plaza) having very little traffic because both malls were to small to attract sufficient business on their own and there were not enough other businesses in the area. At that time Highfield square was actually fairly busy as was Champlain place and the Superstore Mall.
With the existence of additional shopping destinations in the north end of the city, the Northwest center and Mapleton Plaza have seen a serious revival which have had spin off effects on other businesses nearby. For the North End this has proven a very good thing.
For the Downtown however this basically spelled the end for the majority of the downtown. The downtown shopping and business activity was fuelled largely by the business of Highfield square, however changes to the site which have led to serious parking restrictions onsite as well as stores leaving due to reduced clientele. Stores leaving further reduced the draw until today’s version of Highfield square which is fuelled largely by the bus stop out front and is generally specialty stores which often attract a specific clientele interested in one store or two at most. This reduced clientele spins off and reduces residual traffic into the downtown area because there is less of a draw, and therefore has dramatically reduced traffic in the core.
So how do we shift interest back to the core? We make it an appealing place to shop. We do this by developing the downtown core into a destination people want to enjoy.
There are several things that need to be done to revitalize the core.
- Recognize the actual boundaries of Downtown as seen by the public. St. George to the River, Vaughan Harvey to King St. Including the area bounded by High St, and Mountain Rd as well.
- Recognize that this area is made up of a combination of business and private homes.
- Designate specific Areas within this as business areas. (Main St, St George, King, High(combination?)
- Remainder of this area is homes and should be designated residential. Work with owners of these residences needs to be done to return these homes to single family homes and improve the general appearance of some neighbourhoods
- Recognize that planning for new businesses in the downtown area must include ONSITE PARKING for customers and staff.
- Recognize that efforts must be taken to fix the problem of lack of onsite customer and staff parking in the downtown core.
One of my biggest issues with the way council and city staff has looked at downtown planning has been the focus on density without allowing for the fact that without free parking business traffic will be reduced. While the initial though was likely that the presence of paid city lots would give people a place to park and the belief that more businesses would force more people into these paid lots, what has instead happened is that many people who may have been interested in shopping downtown have instead looked to parking in private lots without paying, causing issues with booting vehicles and impounded cars, or they have instead moved to shopping at the larger shopping centers in the north end as well as Champlain place where they can take advantage of unrestricted free parking.
What now needs to be recognized is there needs to be investigation as to how we can fix this problem now that we are aware that people are not behaving the way we expected/intended and instead of compounding the problem by putting more and more dense business downtown we need to look at ways to make access to these businesses much more realistic for the mindset that the residents of this city have proven to have.
No matter how hard we try, if people are showing that they are fully willing to go to a different area to take advantage of free parking then we need to adjust our planning to accommodate this instead of consistently trying to force a vision on the downtown area that is proving to be incompatible with the habits and tendencies of the people who live in the city.