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London, Ont. to look at creating Core Area Entertainment District amid COVID recovery

During the Planning and Environment Committee Meeting Tuesday night, London City Councillors voted 4 to 0 to approve a motion to direct staff to look into and report back on creating a Core Area Entertainment District. benedek via Getty Images

The City of London is looking to build on the recent City of Music UNESCO designation and strengthen the economic recovery following COVID-19 through the entertainment and tourism sector.

During the planning and environment committee meeting Tuesday night, London city councillors voted 4-0 to endorse the motion to direct staff to look into and report back on creating a Core Area Entertainment District.

The motion also called on staff to report back on actions that the city can take to demonstrate how music, entertainment, and culture can aid in fueling the community’s economic recovery following COVID-19.

The motion is up for final approval when the full city council meets on May 3.

“Initiatives such as the coordinated informed response and core initiatives really got put on their heels when COVID hit, but now that we’re coming out, I’m confident that they will be a tool to get our core where we want it,” said Coun. Steve Lehman.

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“I think we have an opportunity here to really get some momentum to bring back our core. So that’s why I am supportive of the mayor’s initiatives mentioned in his letter.”

Read more: London, Ont. named a UNESCO City of Music, becoming Canada’s first to earn designation

Mayor Ed Holder initially proposed the idea in a letter but was absent from the meeting. Coun. Lehman presented the motion to the committee, which Coun. Shawn Lewis seconded.

In his letter, Holder said the Core Area is “uniquely positioned to lead the revival of these sectors as a contributor to wider economic benefits for the city as a whole.”

The mayor also outlined the need to help the arts, culture, tourism, and hospitality sectors — the hardest-hit areas of the pandemic.

During his recent State of the City address, Holder expressed his intention to use the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designation to help London’s recovery and renewal following COVID-19.

“The era of the big department store chain retailers being in the core is gone, and so for the core to reinvent themselves as entertainment districts, as places where people come to enjoy a meal, to enjoy music, to enjoy theatre, those are the future of our downtown core,” Lewis said.

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Read more: London, Ont. mayor shares local entertainment plan: ‘Let the music play’

In November 2021, the Forest City became the first and only city in Canada to be named a UNESCO City of Music.

London joined more than 50 other cities worldwide, which have earned the UNESCO City of Music designation.

Although none were opposed to the motion, Coun. Anna Hopkins did note the importance of remembering that other neighbourhoods in the city outside of London’s core also host events.

“There are other areas throughout our city that has these festivals that are also important and shouldn’t be denied the opportunities to celebrate music. We know that music is fundamental to our health and well-being, so I am generally supportive of this moving forward, even though it just addresses the core area,” she said.

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