London politicians move forward on action plan for downtown core

A London city committee has unanimously approved the Core Area Action Plan, an initiative aiming to revitalize the downtown core. 980 CFPL

The City of London’s strategic priorities and policies committee has given unanimous approval to the Core Area Action Plan in an effort to revitalize the downtown core.

The plan’s areas of focus include downtown London, Richmond Row and parts of Old East Village.

There are 69 actions highlighted in the plan, all of which are guided by four needs: reducing homelessness, increasing safety, helping businesses thrive and attracting more visitors.

“People struggling with homelessness and health issues need help. That was clear from what we were hearing and what we can see,” said city planner John Fleming.

“People need to feel safe and secure for the core to be successful, business needs an environment which allows them to be successful, and finally, the core area needs to attract more people.”

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The actions are split up into three different timelines: short-term actions to be completed within six months, medium-term actions to be completed within six to 12 months and long-term actions that will be done within one to two years.

At a meeting on Monday, the strategic priorities and policies committee praised the new strategy, voting 15-0 to recommend the plan move forward with its short-term projects.

Those short-term actions include a Housing Stability Week, which is currently underway, in which city staff are working to connect people who are homeless to the housing and health services they need.

Other actions in the near future include recruiting food trucks to Dundas Place, doubling the number of foot patrol officers in the core and establishing a program that allows the city or a partner agency to sign a head lease for anyone seeking housing who is unable to sign a lease themselves.

Further down the line, other actions in the plan aim to increase cleanliness, provide temporary free parking, prioritize the core area for public art and regenerate affordable housing stock in the city.

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Fleming says all funding for the short-term projects is already covered within the existing budget.

“What we didn’t want to do was suggest any immediate actions that were not budgeted for already,” said Fleming.

In preparing the plan, city staff say they spent several weeks interviewing business owners, residents, police and Londoners who frequent the downtown core.

Speaking during the meeting, Coun. Steve Lehman said the state of the city’s downtown is by far the biggest complaint he hears from constituents.

“I hear from residents of my constituency who talk about how they don’t come downtown anymore, I hear it from workers who work downtown — 50,000 people are employed downtown, and they’re increasingly concerned about their safety,” he said.

Lehman, who owns several businesses on Richmond Row, says he frequently fields questions from visitors asking “what has happened to this city.”

The same councillors will review the plan when they meet as city council on Nov. 12.

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