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Downtown Acton - BOOM!!! New stores and slogan for Acton...

Downtown Acton, BOOM!!!

If there is one thing stocks have taught us is to buy low sell high.

We here at Acton UP only believe in one direction...UP, and this is where our downtown and Acton is heading. While the press has covered many of the negatives of downtown, what has often been left out is all the planning and hard work that is being put in around it.

This is a natural cycle in any town, that stores and businesses come, and stores and businesses go. This should be expected as people change over time, and with the people, changes are made to their needs and wants. Also to be expected is more business fails than succeeds. Bloomberg suggests that 8 out of 10 business fail, while others suggest, about 50% last 4-5 years, only to fail later.

While there are stores leaving downtown, new stores are moving in, and others moving to new venues and a lot continue to thrive where they have been located for years.

The fact is, business, in general, has faced a lot of unexpected changes over the past year, whether the $15 minimum wage hike or online shopping becoming more prevalent. This is not reflective of Acton, but Canada and the world as a whole. Changes were to be expected, and if there is one thing I’ve learned, you have to be able to adapt to change, cause it is inevitable.

Our town, Council members and most importantly The BIA and a long list of volunteers have been taking these changes head on, and though the task may seem like a tough one, or a UP hill battle, that is where we are going, UP-hill.

Councillor Mike Albano, who also sits on the BIA board, provided me with his notes of some of the positive changes, he mentions, "Town staff and the BIA are working to address vacant stores, this is a priority for the town and the BIA. We are currently seeing vacant stores being rented. “ He also notes “The BIA with the assistance from town staff have developed a strategic plan, this plan is multi-year, multi-face plan with a number of objectives and directions to improve the BIA area. “

We are soon to see a rebranded Acton, with new initiatives, new business, new stores, and a new downtown. Damian Szybalski Manager of Economic Development stated in his State of Economy report that. “The prosperity of downtown Acton is a key economic development priority for the Town and the BIA. Town staff continues to work closely with the BIA, including with the BIA Manager, Dianne Gowland. The Town and the BIA have made significant investments in the downtown, both in terms of staff resources and financial investments. This includes the completion of the BIAs new Strategic Plan, the preparation of a new brand, a new logo, a Marketing Plan, a new website, and a streetscape beautification plan. Very soon, the BIA will launch and showcase its new brand. This will include the public unveiling of the new BIA logo. In 2018, the focus will continue to be placed on addressing the storefront vacancy issue. To do this, an action plan is being finalized with immediate steps that can be taken to fast-track the occupancy of vacant properties. Overall, although challenges remain, there is significant positive momentum for the future of downtown Acton.”

I had a chance to talk with Dianne Gowland BIA manager who gave me her perspective. She stated, “Even though there are stores downtown that look vacant, a lot are not, they are being used and rented but in a way different than traditional storefronts”. The old sub shop is a great example of this. She also mentioned a lot of the vacant stores had new stuff coming in, like the old Starlight Cafe was being turned into a lawyers satellite office, and a new vegan restaurant would be going into the old Artsy Phartsy building (who just relocated up the street), also the owner of the old Sweet Molly’s location is working hard to make something happen with that space. Dianne had also mentioned that she wants to turn Downtown into “an activated space” and would like to get as much feedback from our community members as possible.

Dianne also unveiled to me her new slogan for Acton, "Act-On" which seems to not only be a shout out to our province Ontario but also a calling for the continuation of all the great things we have in Acton, as well as a new bright future for us all.

The truth is every negative is essentially positive, it is just a matter of perception. I’m often reminded by my phone daily from notifications on an app I got that, “where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure”. This can be translated among many things, “where there is an empty store, there is hope for a new store”, or “where there is a blank wall there is a fresh canvas for new art to be placed.” or “where there are empty beds, there is a place for seeds to be planted”.

Right now you can see downtown as failed, or you can see it as a possibility for something new, fresh and innovative. Something that Acton needs now, as opposed to 10 or 20 years ago. The choice is UP to you.

When constantly asked, Downtown Acton, Boom or Bust? I say BOOM, cause that is the only option I choose to see. Some lose, whereas others learn. Our downtown has been a learning experience for us all, and well noted by all those making the positive changes we are starting to see now.

I wanted to end this off with a chapter of the Tao-Te-Ching as I found it fitting, don’t worry it’s short…

“Thirty spokes unite around one hub to make a wheel.

It is the presence of the empty space that gives the function of a vehicle.

Clay is molded into a vessel.

It is the empty space that gives the function of a vessel.

Doors and windows are chiseled out to make a room.

It is the empty space in the room that gives its function.

Therefore, something substantial can be beneficial.

While the emptiness of void is what can be utilized.”


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