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(OPINION) – I wrote an opinion piece in the fall of 2017 that offered an alternative to tearing Victoriaville down. It was a call out to the city to invest dollars into its revitalization. This opinion piece shared how the revitalization happened on the northside of the city and the components necessary. I believe Councillor Ch’ng and Mall Manager Brian Phillips were aware of this article that was published in the Women’s Magazine in the Chronicle Journal. I was clear in sharing that gentrification does not always have to be a by product of revitalization. Turning Victoriaville into a 3 season Civic/Community Space and now with your( Sheena Campbell) input, ensuring we build into the plan a place for our most vulnerable to go during the winter season is a easily managed and welcome addition. Unfortunately City Council has done nothing and many of the business owners in the area are frustrated and see the only option as tearing the mall down. I don’t blame them, as something has to be done. Here is One Woman’s Opinion…..
Lori Paras

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Downtown Fort William has been on the minds of many people in the city of Thunder Bay. I have to admit that most days the optics are not good, as this area of the city is in the process of revitalization and is having its challenges. I have a front row seat in a chair that faces Victoria Ave. East, one door down from a pub that many have labeled the most notorious in our city.

As in any community, there are a host of characters walking through their days-some with clear intent, and others wandering the hours away. This neighbourhood is no different, and from this window of clear view, I have been able to decipher some of the issues that face the south core downtown.

Sixty percent of the businesses operating in downtown Fort William are owned and operated by women. This percentage is quite impressive as the ratio of men versus women who are self employed in Canada is at a 35-65 split as of 2013. I am one of these women.

Having participated in an economic revitalization of a village outside the city of Thunder Bay before 9/11 wreaked havoc on the tourism industry in Northwestern Ontario and as a restaurateur in the revitalization of downtown Port Arthur, I know that all projects start with a clear vision.

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The revitalization of the north side of the city was achieved with the cooperation of visionary entrepreneurs, a vibrant arts community, their local Business Improvement Association, and the City of Thunder Bay. This collaboration of efforts worked year after year and is reaping the rewards of their labours today. Their shared vision, the plan they put into place and the implementation of that plan has created a vibrant community again. The waterfront is still in development and will be an asset to this city for generations.

Coming to downtown Fort William was a conscious decision. I joined an established business community that had seen better daysβ€”an understatement. This side of the city is no different than our neighbours to the north; it needs a vision, a plan of action, a team to implement it, and an amazing attraction.

I am on record of being in favour of the demolition of Victoriaville, but after having watched the street from my shop window and speaking with our diverse community, I have changed that view. I have also been made aware that this side of the city, although looking for change, would like to see revitalization without gentrification. I am in agreement.

Victoriaville is in need of a reinvention to become not only successful financially but successful in changing the dynamic of downtown Fort William.

I envision a new Victoria Civic Centre, a three-season community space housing an amazing attraction, such as Mrs. King’s Carousel now located at Chippewa Park. The carousel could be moved with their permission to become an attraction worth seeing in the heart of downtown Fort William. The Fort William Parks Board purchased this carousel that was built by Charles Wallace Parker from Mrs. Maude King for $583.33 on June 21, 1934 when she became bankrupt while operating her carnival at Chippewa Park.

Removing the entrances to Victoriaville would lower a substantial heating cost, and leaving a portion of the roof to cover the carousel could help with the expenditure of dismantling the roof. We now would have a downtown, formerly cut in two, reunited with this thoroughfare. I envision umbrella-covered tables, local buskers, retail peddlers, pow wows, families enjoying Mrs. King’s carousel, business lunches, live music, a bike lane, and the opportunity for Fort William to be added to the list of places to visit in Thunder Bay.

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I want our downtown to be a proud prosperous community again. This is my vision for how we can find our way back there. If it becomes a shared vision, we will need a plan of action, a team to implement it, and an attraction that can take centre stage.

– Lori Paras

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11 Replies to “Lori Paras Talks Victoriaville”

  1. My goodness Lady , your delusional . Downtown FW is nothing but a slum and a ghetto , nothing is going to change until the Shelter and the Cities welfare office is moved out of this area .

  2. You will never get rid of the “characters”, therefore, you will never have the traffic you wish for. Period.
    You can clean, polish, bathe and dress a turd. However, at the end of the day, it’s still a turd.

    1. @ Mary – So, you’re one of those “characters” I’m referring to? Can I ask you a question? How come you guys always want to get drunk at 8:00 in the morning around Victoria Ville? Doesn’t your boss at work frown upon that?

  3. Tear down that mall. The vulnerable people you speak of can then move to city hall to stay warm and dry.

  4. Crime ridden dead zone, finished! Move businesses now, get out because we will never shop/eat there. Turn it into Shelter House annex….

  5. Get rid of this rotting whale carcus of an eyesore!!

    It is a miserable failure, from day one.

    Tear it down NOW, open the streets back up.

  6. Tear down the mall and build the new police station there. That is the only way to make that area safe again! At the same time tear down that shit hole bar across the street and build a new Tim Horton’s for the police!

  7. How much do the citizens save on taxes if they tear it down? I remember when there was no Victoriaville and the newest building in the area was the IBM building. The area consisted of McLeods store and The Chapples building, the Capitol Theatre and The Victoria cinema. It was an entertainment and shopping area at one time and you could travel the streets via electric cable cars. However, things changed rapidly when the mall was put in place. Victoriaville is a ghost of a shell and it’s not entertaining dodging drunks and 5 gallon pails. Tear it down already. It acts as a shelter house now paying homage to riff and raff. The ugliness in that area out weighs whatever prettiness that mall has to offer

  8. As a taxpayer i cannot agree, this is not where I want my money to go .
    Sadly the character of that neighborhood has changed. I feel only compassion for the hardworking entrepreneurial folks who own real estate in this area. But this area was dying out two decades ago.
    Maybe even more.
    The recent change in the last decade with dozens of transient people in the area really seals the fate of Victoiraville and its huge unused parkade.
    I remember being a young person and going to Armanis where the pub in question is now….or even as a younger lad shopping at the Skihaus , Top buckle or Fresh Air experience. how sad that times economics and the demographics have changed..and not of the better.
    We cant afford to prop this place up any longer.

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