By: Keith Borkowsky
21/06/2012 – Brandon Sun
The temporary closure of the Clancy’s Eatery and Drinkery on Princess Avenue has some downtown proponents speaking out on how an entertainment hub in the Brandon’s core generates momentum for the city.
Reached in downtown Grand Forks, N.D., which has a downtown restaurant and entertainment district, Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell said Brandonites would gain from having a similar district in the Wheat City.
“Downtown Grand Forks is beautiful,” Caldwell said. “There’s opportunities for half a dozen character establishments like this in downtown Brandon. There’s tremendous opportunities to reuse old buildings like the downtown fire hall, Clancy’s and other light industrial buildings downtown that could be used.”
Caldwell has been a regular at Clancy’s, describing the bar as “my local,” and encouraged other entrepreneurs to find ways for Brandon to copy Grand Forks’ success.
“I’m quite amazed with what I see here and Grand Forks is a similar size to Brandon,” Caldwell said. “They have enforced building design guidelines so that on a historic street, you don’t have buildings that are out of character with its surrounding neighbourhood. In 1996-97, downtown Grand Forks was in severe decline and a new mayor came on the scene with the idea of dedicating the reconstruction of downtown to make the most of their historic assets.”
Caldwell said Brandon has a vibrant downtown, and there are similar assets already in place. He also noted that it could even be better with more development that took into account the historic storefronts.
“A lot can be learned from a very successful community like (Grand Forks),” Caldwell said.
Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Nate Andrews said there are downtown success stories in the food and beverage sector.
“Komfort Kitchen is smoking, Remington’s is down there, the Double Decker has been there for years and years and years,” Andrews said. “There’s some good downtown businesses too. You create something that people want, and if that works out, that’s great.”
Renaissance Brandon’s downtown specialist, Braden Pilling, said a downtown restaurant area is a big component of the Downtown HUB secondary plan.
“That’s part of the premise of the land use secondary plan, where we create a clustered area because we do have some pretty good places downtown,” Pilling said.
“But when they are all spread out, it doesn’t create the environment we are looking for in terms of people gathering and interacting. If they were in closer proximity, it would be more vibrant and more exciting. In the corresponding zoning you don’t know about yet, and are still working on, essentially, we want to create that environment with uses like pubs, cafes and specialized retail, ice cream shops and all the things people like to do socially.”