Could a ‘Night Mayor’ help Kitchener’s downtown?
Downtown Kitchener may seem quieter than long-time city councillor Scott Davey would like, but there may be a solution seen in some of the major capitals of the world.
Earlier this week, the City of Ottawa gave the greenlight to a plan that would create a new position meant to boost nightlife in the city. It’s dubbed — the Night Mayor. Although, officially known as the ‘Night Commissioner’, it resembles other ‘night mayor’ positions in cities like Amsterdam, Washington D.C., and London.
It’s intrigued Davey.
“I thought it was a bit tongue in cheek in a sense, but probably, maybe, a good way to put a spotlight on something that we’re missing and a way to help some of our downtown restaurants,” said Davey.
In keeping his tongue firmly in cheek, Davey tweeted in April in response to a CTV article on the subject he was “throwing my hat in the ring” for the non-existent position in Kitchener.
Davey says though there are no plans to install someone as Kitchener Night Mayor or create the position, he says there needs to be a renewed focus on the vibrancy of nightlife in the downtown.
“I think a lot of it is getting the word out there,” he said. “I think there’s sometimes a perception that Downtown Kitchener isn’t safe and that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s very, very safe in Downtown Kitchener.”
He’s often discouraged to see many businesses closed at 10 p.m. throughout the week, with some businesses only extending hours until midnight on the busier Friday and Saturday evenings.
“When I was growing up in the city, downtown was maybe too vibrant and had some issues,” said Davey. “The council at the time made some corrections and perhaps over-corrected and then COVID dampened that even further.”
PLANS IN PROGRESS
The Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Association (BIA) has recognized the sluggish nature of nightlife in the city and is working to bring back more activity.
In an email to CTV News, the BIA says it has a new strategic plan to guide resources for the next three years, shifting the focus of events to the evening hours.
“Most of our activities will be in the evening given the new hybrid model of working from home,” reads part of the statement from Linda Jutzi, the executive director of the BIA. “We still endeavour to provide daytime activity, but the focus is certainly shifting to evenings.”
The pandemic has played a significant role in the subdued atmosphere, shifting habits to remote work from home and hollowing out office spaces as companies decide against renewing leases.
“Many technology companies have closed their offices, or terminated their leases and this has resulted in less foot traffic during the day,” says the BIA.
Events like Kitchener Blues Festival and Cruising on King have helped to reignite energy in Kitchener’s downtown, but Davey points to residential construction as a key pillar of bringing life to the heart of the city.
“Every time a tower goes up, that’s that many more people that can be patrons of our downtown restaurants so, anything we can do to enhance that is something that the City of Kitchener is interested in,” he said.
Because what’s a city, without a little excitement at night?
“We really want a city where people are happy. They’re social, they’re not locked away in their homes or apartments, there’s a place from them to go,” said Davey.
FULL BIA STATEMENT
"The Downtown Kitchener BIA is working on a new Strategic Plan that will guide our resources for the next three years. Two years ago, we made a shift towards more funds being used towards arts and culture, live music productions, and free concerts in fun creative spaces that are inclusive to all, and a focus to include families. Most of our activities will be in the evening given the new hybrid model of working from home. Many technology companies have closed their offices, or terminated their leases and this has resulted in less foot traffic during the day. We still endeavour to provide daytime activity, but the focus is certainly shifting to evenings."
- Linda Jutzi, Executive Director, Downtown Kitchener BIA