Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mitchell's Back, Project Chilled, and Communications Breakdown

Ray Mitchell’s Back in Business

Ray Mitchell, formally the owner and operator of the Family Thrift Store, is back in business downtown with a new store on Wyndham St. The store, called Dis-A-Ray Antiques and Collectibles, is located next to The Cornerstone and opened in a low key fashion on October 17th with cake, and the news of the move has quickly spread to Mitchell’s loyal clientele. “It’s ostensibly an antique store, but it’s an antique store for kids,” says Mitchell who adds that by his reckoning roughly half of his customers are under the age of 30. “It’s going to be all the best of the Thrift Store with none of the bad.”

There are a couple of big differences though. First, due to space restrictions, the new store won’t be carrying much in the way furniture (although today, you can get a pair of old roller coaster cars that are sitting in the window). Mitchell’s also disappointed that that he won’t be able to help students and people on welfare in the same way he used to, and while he can’t be the patron of the arts he was by offering a venue, Mitchell says that he’ll continue to be a supporter in whatever way he can. “I’ll let them use the window, and may be the occasion acoustical concert, that kind of thing […] But you’re going to see me somewhere down the road with some kind of musical component.” In the meantime, Mitchell invites all his old customers, from far and wide, to come by his new store and say hi.

City Chills on Big Projects

In irony news, just as Mitchell’s getting his retail life back in order, the City is shelving certain capital projects from the five year capital budget forecast, including the new public library that was to be built at the north end of Wyndham. Avid fans of The G-Beat will remember Echo’s cover story this past spring about the project, which would effectively shut down every business between Cowboy Bar and the old post office. Unless they moved somewhere else to do business like Wyndham Arts last fall.

But tough times, economically speaking, have meant that certain big ticket capital projects are getting mothballed until the city can see its way out of recession footing. Chief among those projects is the new Main Branch of the public library, which was to be the linchpin of the entire Baker Street redevelopment project. Other projects on that list include a new south end rec centre and the Wilson Street parking garage, which, if remaining in a state of development limbo, will have a pronounced negative impact on business development downtown. With a second Co-operators office moving downtown and the arrival of Go trains next year, those parking spaces are seriously needed.

All hope is not lost though. Treasurer Margaret Neubauer told he Guelph Mercury that “There probably is some capacity later in the forecast to get started” later on, but still the city is looking at being unable to fulfill on promised parking needs and leaving several buildings vacant in a development limbo for, potentially, years.

Communication Dysfunction

In more irony news, a city initiative to answer a note of concern in 2008’s Citizen Satisfaction Survey identifying 'communication with residents' as a key issue, three community communication sessions on October 22nd and 26th were cancelled due to lack of interest. The City cancelled the sessions last week due to low registration, and will instead issue a survey, both online and by hard copy, for area residents to comment on pertinent issues facing the city. The City of Guelph's Corporate Communications Plan is intended to foster effective, two-way communications that encourage public involvement for the purposes of government decision-making, and professional, consistent, open communications between the City and its stakeholders, according to a City press release.

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