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Essex Centre walk-about highlights positive changes, improvements needed



by Sylene Argent

Members of Essex Council and administration took advantage of the nicer weather last Tuesday evening to get a “visitor’s eye-view” of the Essex Centre Business district.

  For the past several years, the Town has tried to host a “walk-about” event annually in Essex and Harrow Centres.

  “It is a yearly thing we do to look at the downtown areas and to get a visitor’s eye-view of the community,” Councillor Morley Bowman said, adding the opportunity allows Town staff and council reps a chance to highlight the positive, note changes that have taken place over the past year or so, and list needed improvements.

  The event also allows members of Council an opportunity to ask questions of administration regarding ongoing and upcoming projects or improvements.

  Council reps and staff members also looked at the condition of benches, trees, conditions of sidewalks, possible accessibility concerns, and the appearance of commercial building facades while they toured Essex Centre on foot.

  Previous to the Essex Centre walk-about, a similar event was hosted in Harrow. Bowman said he was pleased to see new businesses opening up in both downtown corridors. “That’s always positive,” he said. “Those are always great things to see.”

  Councillor Kim Verbeek was also pleased to see new businesses opening up, but was disappointed to learn of the vacancy rate in Harrow’s commercial sector has increased slightly.  

  Councillor Joe Garon said it looks a lot nicer when old signs of businesses that have closed have been removed and replaced with “for lease” or “for sale” signs.

  The number of new businesses opening is in part due to the friendly business environment that contributes to a message being sent that Essex is open for business, the Town’s Economic Development Officer, Nelson Silveira, said.

  After hosting the two walk-about events, Council members will answer and hand in surveys Silveira provided. In the surveys, Council reps will rate the commercial districts in several different categories.

  One major driver behind many of the façade improvements in the downtown corridors is because of the successful update of the Harrow and Essex Centre Community Improvement Plans (CIP). He said Town staff is talking to new businesses about the different grant programs involved in the CIP programs to let them know about the possible funds available. The improvements eventually add up to a better overall physical environment of the business districts.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy would like to bring the findings of the two walk-about events for discussion at a community visioning session.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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