FOR BRANT NEWS
We all remember that infamous quote from the 90s: “Brantford is the worst downtown in Canada,” as delivered by a local politician.
Even before social media, it became instantly viral across the country. It helped to confirm the other urban myths propagated by a lack of information or cynical misinformation.
And it stuck.
The problem was that despite the efforts of many to change the reality, and therefore the perceptions, it was more convenient for some to be naysayers than to acknowledge the improvements.
With more than a dozen studies, consultant reports and staff investigations, downtown Brantford is the most studied area of town.
Still the urban mythology prevails.
The inaccurate perceptions are re-told as though they are facts. For example, as recently as July this year I was told, “A friend of mine has travelled in the downtown every day over the past decade and is still fearful.”
When asked what had happened to that person to create this fear, the answer was, “Oh nothing, but you know what it’s like down there.”
Really? Nothing happened? But the fear lives on.
We are used as a municipal model for our downtown strategies and referenced in seminars and panel discussions on post-secondary growth and core revitalization.
The provincial and federal governments positively glow over our downtown achievements and come to the table with investment dollars.
What do these outsiders see that we can’t even portray to a percentage of our own population?
Downtown Brantford BIA has been tracking the incredible crowds coming downtown to events and celebrations over this summer.
Forty-five per cent are from throughout Brantford but, surprisingly, 45 per cent are also from Kitchener, Waterloo, London and Hamilton.
What is their overwhelming reaction to the downtown?
“Wow. This place is great. It’s clean. It’s safe. It’s vibrant.”
And it’s growing.
Eight new businesses have opened downtown in the past few months, including Manifest Yoga, Sophia’s Café and Bakery, Atica Apparel, TDG Marketing, Cybershop Digital Web Design, Botanical Wellness Spa, Burrito Brothers and The Hawk and Bell Public House.
There are also six to 10 more in the hopper ready for announcements. Employers are hiring and positive attitudes are thriving.
Hundreds of people have started following the positive messaging of Downtown Brantford’s Facebook page over the past four weeks.
Thirty-six percent are female between 24-54 years and 32 per cent are male in the same age demographic. The next largest group would be the students.
The average visitation frequency of our site is regularly from four to eight times for updates, and they ‘like’ and ‘share’ the images all over the country.
There is a message in perception here. We are doing something right. Come down and take a new look. You have a reason to be proud of downtown Brantford.
The quotes of visitors and Brantfordian re-visitors are ones of optimism and pride. The most satisfying of these was during the Jazz Festival:
“We have gone from worst to first.”
John Bradford is a member of the Downtown Brantford BIA. Visit www.facebook.com/DowntownBrantford for more information.