Medicine Hat Media

Revitalizing Downtown

Downtown Medicine Hat is a drag. Shops open and close regularly, driving around to find a parking spot is most often a nightmare and the only way to go between North and South Railway Street on foot is through a dilapidated underground walkway. Currently there are a number of plans in the works to revitalize downtown. One plan of which includes removing planters, at the cost of a huge sum of money, to make a few more parking spaces which probably will not return on the investment of spending so much for so little. Other plans fizzle out or are rejected by vote.

In reading Ticked and Tickled on the Medicine Hat News, one resident complained about how the Railroad is still in town. This gave me an idea: As the railroad is supposed to be moving its operation to the town of Dunmore, why not rip up the tracks and make a mall? A mall would help downtown immensely. It would help relieve the congestion of traffic headed towards Walmart on a daily basis, create many jobs, create an area for people to park in, and most importantly, unify the North and South Railway Streets. The railroad station could also be turned into a dozen cool shops.

The immediate problem I can foresee is that malls usually start off with a few chain stores, such as a Walmart, Zellers, The Bay, Safeway, and so forth. There may not be enough room for a typical square style mall, so an elongated one would be the best choice. Perhaps two chain stores on either side with strip malls and a big parking lot in between. Another possible idea could be a two story mall that could accommodate many more stores with a big underground parking lot, though, Medicine Hat may not be big enough for another large scale mall.

Another issue is that Medicine Hat is not considered big enough for some stores, but as the town just keeps getting bigger, a new mall may encourage new business. Some businesses would, of course, do better in a mall setting, such as Empire Gaming, which tanked due to poor location. It may have greatly thrived in the setting of a mall or in the heart of downtown.


User Comments

11 Responses to “Revitalizing Downtown”

  1. July 21st, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    Dusty says:

    Reminded me of how when I was in England there would be 2 story malls but they’d only occupy like a block, so there would be a series of these smaller indoor malls across streets from each other. Another thing common in England is to block off the roads, but this is also in Calgary and many other places.

    If the incessant parking nightmare was somehow managed, and half of the stores downtown didn’t look like a poster of a garage sale, then I would totally go there more often.

    I’d also like to see more ORIGINAL and UNIQUE stores there though, like Garbo’s, that place was BA.

  2. July 21st, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    Josh says:

    One idea that I had heard and really liked would be to convert one street (say…3rd?) to foot-traffic ONLY. It seems counter-intuitive to us North American oilcentric driveaholics, but foot-traffic streets are typically highly successful in transforming a central retail-driven location. Look at Stephen Ave in Calgary. It’s VERY common in Europe. Times Square in New York is a no car zone now.

    I think the idea is to increase the desirability of being there in the first place, right? Open up parking adjacent to the foot zone, and let people stroll away! You can have cool outdoor cafe’s and shops that way too…

  3. July 21st, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    Dean says:

    I lived in Lethbridge shortly after the train system had been moved outside of the City. The same will probably happen with Medicine Hat, that the marshalling yards where the trains are assembled and disassembled — and only the yards would be moved to Dunmore. There still needs to be one railway track through Medicine Hat to keep that route running for trains from the West & East.

    In Lethbridge, the marshalling yards in the centre of the city were compressed to the one line running through (with a few spur lines to serve businesses along the track). Then the space in the centre of the city was reclaimed for shopping areas, much like what you have suggested Sean. The train station still stands, and at that time, was the Health Unit building.

  4. July 21st, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    Vaughn says:

    I actually agree about the foot-only downtown street. I think this is possibly the best idea. Look at Regina, Calgary, Edmonton – all these bigger cities eventually adopt this for some portion of their downtown areas because it probably works? I for one, like it too.

  5. July 21st, 2010 at 6:17 PM

    Taylor says:

    I was recently discussing this with my dad. When the train station moved to Coalhurst from downtown Lethbridge, the move actually boosted the downtown economy a great deal (my dad was around long enough to see the before and after effects). Also, the parking situation isn’t that terrible really, considering there is a fairly large, and mostly unused, parkade in the area. Finally, in response to the comment about Medicine Hat not being big enough for many stores; part of the reason for the lack of new stores in the area is the reluctance of Hatters to shop here. Huge numbers of people flock to Calgary or Lethbridge to shop, and this does effect (however indirectly) the emergence of new shopping areas. Basically, downtown revival would be great, but I don’t know if this city has it in it to make it happen no matter how much potential Downtown has.

  6. July 21st, 2010 at 8:53 PM

    Joey says:

    I doubt it’s as simple as “just rip up the tracks.” It might either be too much work for a gamble like a mall, or not possible due to them being important rails. It would make more sense to improve our existing mall. Its location next to the highway on a road that can handle more traffic than North/South Railway is way better.

    Also I don’t think it’s fair to say that making downtown pedestrian will work just because these towns that are several times bigger did it. We have 1/15th the population of Calgary, and Times Square went pedestrian because of traffic congestion and world famous landmarks that are actually worthwhile to visit. They can have more people walk through there than drive, and we don’t exactly get gridlocked on 3rd every day.

  7. July 22nd, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    Dusty says:

    There is a “fairly large, and mostly unused, parkade” on one end of downtown, the meters kind of scare me because in my 8 years of driving I’ve never used one. I suppose I could try, but parking in the residential area on the other side of downtown is just as far but free.

    And I don’t think they mean make all downtown pedestrian, just one street, or even one block on one street. In my head I imagine lots of vendors taking advantage of that free space or a small band or artists, whatever.

  8. July 22nd, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    Amber says:

    I like the idea of the “foot street”! Loved the one in Regina! My biggest issue with downtown is parking. I’m a stay at home mom so most of my shopping is done when everyone is working. During the week that parkade is VERY USED!!!! I also drive a mini-van so parallel parking is out of the question in those tiny stalls.

  9. July 22nd, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    Liz says:

    In Kelowna, they have a great old trendy downtown, angle parking tripled the parking and streets were no wider. We need trendy shops, bistros, deli’s and the city needs to help renovate the buildings, make the spaces cheaper too, was talking to a store owner down there and he said he paid 2200 for his small shop and any reno’s were up to him to fix. Makes it hard for small businesses to survive. Luckily for him he has a very busy little business.

  10. July 23rd, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    Jeff says:

    I’ve always thought that if they were to move the railway tracks, the old railyard would be the perfect location for the proposed event centre and the real game changer for downtown revitalization. With the event centre would come your new retail outlets, hotels, condos, the extra traffic needed to give downtown business a reason to stay open past 5pm. A central events centre was the planning recommendation right from the beginning, and it works for many other cities. Now whether or not the city would be willing to accept that recommendation at this point is a whole different story.

  11. July 23rd, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    Mike says:

    I think the downtown is irreparably damaged. Unless you can get rid of the housing above the stores then nothing will change. Too much riffraff lives directly in downtown. Combine that with the poor parking and you have people avoiding downtown. I think the city blew it’s chance last year by not selling the parking lot land to McNally. He is a fantastic developer and the mayor really messed up on that one. As for the city’s current plan, I haven’t read the fine print, but it looks pretty lame. Adding red carpets to a street doesn’t change the fact that there are no businesses worth visiting in that area. I have no constructive ideas to add to the conversation, but it’s going to take a lot of work and ingenuity to make the downtown something to write home about.

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