Tell me if this sounds familiar: a land locked city built beside a ravine and river system sitting on the northern edge of the 407, bisected by Highway 7 with a Historic Downtown where the GO Station is located … nope, I’m NOT talking about Brampton.
At the corner of 407 and Warden is a sign: Downtown Markham. This is not the “Downtown” found on Main Street and Highway 7 (again, I’m not talking about Brampton… but Markham), because in fact, that sign reads “Historic Downtown” for good reason. Those building are century buildings, there are many dentists, lawyers and accountants there, along with personal services lime spas, salons, bike shop, pet grooming, etc. (swear to you I am NOT talking about Brampton!). It is quaint, homey and well, historic.
Does anyone want to guess where I’m going with this?
I now take you back to the intersection of highway 407 and Warden, where Markham has built a “Downtown” with a Capital D!! as you can see right here in this large Panoramic shot:
This post is about something else entirely: the City of Brampton’s choice for a new chief officer. Our current Mayor poached him from Niagara Falls; a tourism oriented border city with Niagara Falls, Duty after shops, a wine region, and bridges to the United States (the Parallels to Brampton just jump off the page, don’t they?); and he in turn is hiring the balance of his Niagara Falls cohort into the Brampton fold. I will wait to see how effective he is, and how effective his team turns out to be. But so far, I am wondering what it is he is bringing to the table beyond a slash and burn firing campaign. In hiring someone from Niagara, I worry that we are just a crazy old dog, barking up the wrong tree… again.
By failing to appreciate who we are as a city, and by refusing to Embrace and Own our own Brand, we have hired a team that did great work in Niagara Falls. But as I drive through Downtown Markham, I can’t help but ask: Why we haven’t invited This Team to dinner.
I also have to wonder why we continue to treat some of our best assets, i.e.: our busiest highway interchanges, like dirty secrets that we are ashamed of? When instead they should be the anchor of our own Downtown developments (like the corner of Warden and the 407 for example).
Now, i am not advocating that we evict Canadian Tire from the site, but here is what the above pictured development area would look like if it were located at Bramalea Road and the 407 on the site of the current Canadian Tire warehouse (note, that a pedestrian tunnel under Bramalea Road could likely be built to the GO Station):
Consider this question the next time you drive up the 410 or along the 407: Why isn’t there any sign of life along the Highway at major intersections? Why do we insist on putting people as far away as possible from the highway on one hand, and cry that there is no relief from traffic congestion on the other? The roads are clogged with people trying to get to the highway or get to the GO stations. Perhaps .. and call me crazy … we should start people NEAR those things.
Mayor Jackson travels, observes, learns and applies what he learns. It’s a far better approach than hiring Niagara Falls’ staff and hoping they’ll sort of automatically know what to do in Brampton.
I do sincerely hope for their success, but wish we had started in a more intelligent place so that “hope” could be “confidence” instead.