MONCTON – On Wednesday, Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc. (DMCI) released findings of the first State of the Downtown Report as part of an evaluation conducted by the Canadian Urban Institute.
The report gave an overview of the economic landscape in the area, including growth and challenges facing the city’s core.
Derek Martin, the outgoing Board President of the private non-profit organization, said the data will help guide future strategic planning.
“We had all sorts of great ideas, but that’s the point when we realized that to know where you want to go you have to know where you’ve been and where you are,” he said. “This seems like basic data but it’s data that we didn’t really know exactly or wasn’t up to date. So now it allows us to really have a starting point.”
The organization had been advocating for the Downtown Events Centre, which Martin called a “huge catalyst” for growth.
“Moving forward, we have a lot more projects, but we’re looking at growing downtown as a whole,” he said.
The report shows population growth in the downtown area has been modest for the past few years. In 2015, only 5 per cent of Moncton’s population lived downtown. More of them are seniors than youth. The average income of those living in the downtown core is also 55 per cent lower than the citywide average of $68,600.
Commercial properties still make up the largest portion of the downtown area, with over 1,000 businesses located there. But more than half of the sewer lines and around 40 per cent of the water mains are between 60 and 120 years old.
Incoming Board President Jim Dixon said this won’t limit growth and the City of Moncton is already investing in downtown infrastructure.
“There’s a lot of work to be done there,” he said. “It wouldn’t be a limiter [on growth]. It would just be another box you got to tick.”
In the future, Dixon said DMCI will continue the work to improve St. George Street and possibly expanding the Business Improvement Area. This area currently spans from King Street to Vaughan Harvey Boulevard, and from St. George Street to the Petitcodiac River.
Dixon said the Junction Urban Village on the southwest intersection of Main Street and Vaughan Harvey Boulevard could potentially be included. But the process would take at least one year.
“We’re just exploring it now and understanding the impact of that and how much tax base is sort of on the periphery,” he said.
For Martin, a young entrepreneur working downtown, it’s important to have a vibrant urban core. He said he DMCI is working to build that with the support of its surroundings.
“We’re trying to really make downtown Moncton a staple and really build a great community,” he said. “And now we’re seeing support from citizens living downtown, tourists coming in and out of downtown, and people putting their money where their mouth is.”