Growing concern that Mitton Village has fallen on hard times is motivating a new committee of citizens, business people and politicians to search for solutions.
“It’s like the city put everything into downtown and forgot about Mitton Village,” says Trudy Hollett, who owns a commercial building at 161 Mitton St. South.
While the downtown core has been revitalized with residential apartments, reinvestment in commercial properties and streetscape improvements like lights, trees and flowerbeds, Mitton Village has deteriorated.
What was once a thriving commercial corridor in the heart of the city now has vacant storefronts. Vandalism, break-ins and drug use worry some residents.
“We’ve never had vandalism and I feel safe on the streets at night, but I’ve had a tenant say she doesn’t feel safe,” Hollett said. “And I’ve been told that businesses have closed because of constant theft.”
Hollett is one of 14 appointed to the new Mitton Village Community Development Advisory Committee, struck by city council to recommend improvements.
The committee met for the first time April 9 and talked about everything from rebranding to neighbourhood barbecues.
“We want this committee to be the voice in our community,” said Alan Shaw, the city’s director of planning.
The Mitton Village area has many positives including the redevelopment of the former Sarnia General Hospital site and a thriving farmers’ market, he said.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to build on those successes. I think the timing is good because people are looking for places to redevelop,” Shaw said.
City Coun. Brian White grew up in the neighbourhood and is a council rep on the committee along with Coun. Bev MacDougall.
“Downtown (was revitalized) with a lot of hard work on the part of a lot of people,” White said. “I hope we can do the same thing again but fast track it.”
He said he attended a recent meeting with about 20 Mitton Village neighbours to talk about declining property standards near the intersection known as Five Corners at Wellington,
Mitton and Ontario streets.
“The neighbours said they feel unsafe and they said they want to talk about the general impact of crime in Mitton Village and the dozens of needles near a few of the homes.
“It was a vibrant and busy neighbourhood not that long ago,” White said. “Deterioration has been rapid.”
He said he is encouraged by the large number of people who wanted to be on the committee, and he encourages the general public to attend the meetings as well.
The Mitton Village Community Development Advisory Committee will meet next on Wednesday, May 9 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.