Oshawa was built around the once mighty General Motors car plant. Since then it has grown in a quick fashion. It has grown to be more than just a city based around a car plant.
As the city blossoms the people of Oshawa could have the chance to witness many businesses opening up. Whether it is the partial revitalization due to UOIT and its Regent Theatre or the building of the General Motors Centre. The downtown is a mix of diverse stores with much to offer. From food, clothes, and places to watch live performances, there is always something happening.
On the other hand there are still some newspaper filled windows that wait for a new owner to open them. The numbers of stores without owners has continued to drop dramatically over the last decade .
“ Back in ’96 our vacancy rating for commercial properties was roughly 30 per cent, that is three out of ten stores. By 2006, it came down to 20 per cent. By 2010 it came down to about 12 per cent. ” said David Tuley, Oshawa’s downtown development officer.
Since 2006, Oshawa has given $541 million dollars in permit activities to further grow the nucleus of the downtown’s rejuvenation. That money is a big part of the reason Oshawa has been able to see the drastic shift in the last nine years of growth for the downtown. Oshawa has also given out 47 incentive loans since 2003, representing a total value of $1.2 million. These loans offer financial incentive programs that come in the form of loans and grants to aid with various costs associated with development/redevelopment.
Today there are 58 dining establishments downtown with only two restaurant spaces still vacant downtown. One is currently being worked on to become the new Hollywood Cone ice cream shop.
Above all else, Tuley believes the key to Oshawa’s downtown identity isn’t just being a food or a clothing location. Downtown Oshawa is looking to be grown as an inclusive environment for everyone.
“Whether they have mobility issues or needs based on religion,” he said. “ It’s as simple as getting together for Wimbledon, the tennis tournament or providing food after dark for the Muslim community for Ramadan.”
Community reaches far more than simply ideals for the downtown. Store owners say that they are doing their part to create inclusivity for everyone. Head chef and owner of Nourished on the Go Gabriella Budani said that before her there wasn’t any vegan restaurants in Oshawa but she is glad that she can give more options to the vegan and vegetarians of the city.
She brings an element not normally seen by the downtown community. Her food adds variety to a downtown already filled with burger joints, Chinese food restaurants, and Barbecue shops. She was warned of the so called “dirtiness” of Oshawa’s downtown by people before she made a location there. She mentioned how happy she was to take that chance and likes her store being there very much. “It has so much potential to grow.” Budani noted of the downtowns core.
Budani isn’t the only store owner doing her part for the vision set by The “Culture Counts” movement. Darryl Koster, owner of Buster Rhino’s, a multiple award winning and CBC’s Dragon’s Den approved pork restaurant holds the Craft Beer Festival every year to help brewers all across Ontario brand themselves and their products.
Carol Cavallari is another person who believes in bringing people together. Her “We Grow Food” campaign has hundreds of people every year helping to grow food as a community. This incentive has been bringing people together for the common cause of proving that any community can grow and sustain its own food source. It is estimated that 450-4 lb. meals could be made with the amount grown each year.
Oshawa’s rates of empty stores are dropping and plans are in place to keep improving says Tuley. Even though they don’t have an answer to all of the downtowns questions they are always looking for new ways to make it a better place for everyone. Tuley hopes for inclusivity to blossom from all of the downtowns projects being worked on and to be worked in the future. Tuley cannot do it all alone but with help from store owners like Darryl Koster and Carol Cavallari he is confident that Oshawa can keep being a progressive space for stores and the people who shop at them.