Revitalization Transforming Downtown Cornwall

December 26, 2019
By Kevin Lajoie

You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, things’ll be great when you’re
Downtown, no finer place for sure
Downtown everything’s waiting for you

Cornwall Ontario – The lyrics from Petula Clark’s classic song ‘Downtown’ feel especially fitting when discussing the current state of Downtown Cornwall.

Downtown Cornwall revitalization 2019

There’s a real buzz around Cornwall’s urban core these days. The Christmas lights are shining and a growing number of storefronts are alight with new shops and cafes ready to satisfy fashion and food lovers alike.

The revitalization is no more evident than at the corner of First and Pitt Streets, where a focus on the past is bringing plenty of optimism for the future. Businessman and property owner Aaron Bell is renovating his building at the northeast corner of the intersection (and a few neighbouring ones immediately north on Pitt Street) and the results have been quite dramatic. The original brick façade has been restored and new windows and alterations are being completed to enhance the building’s presence.

The result – seven different businesses are either receiving a facelift or taking up residence in the newly-restored block. Specialty shops Crush Lane and The Squire Shop have been joined by Tilly’s Eatery & Delicatessen and The Birchwood Café, with Love and Lee and The Happy Popcorn Co. also recently opening.

Another dining establishment, The Spicy Pearl, is in the works to open on the First Street side of the building, adding even more choice to the already impressive mix of specialty shops and restaurants that dot the landscape of Cornwall’s urban core.

Needless to say, the renovation is turning heads.

“It’s so nice to see old buildings being unearthed. We’ve lost so many historical buildings due to fires and modernization too,” said Chris Munro of the trendy Life’s Little Pleasures, located directly across the street from Mr. Bell’s property. “Projects like this are creating spaces for new businesses and that gives people even more reason to visit our Downtown.”

In addition to the street-level additions, 9 second-floor residential units are also being updated and will be ready for occupants.

A bit further east on First Street, at the corner of First and Sydney Streets, another building belonging to Mr. Bell is getting a makeover. When complete, it will house a massage therapy business, Simply Wellness, along with three residential units.

Heart of the City CIP

These Downtown projects, and many others, have been supported through a popular development program that has helped to establish Cornwall as a leader in urban revitalization across the province.

Offered through the City of Cornwall’s Economic Development department, the Heart of the City Community Improvement Program (CIP) is designed to encourage and assist property owners to improve their properties, and by extension, improve their local communities.

The Heart of the City CIP provides seven different sources of support to business owners looking to upgrade their properties. They include loans (forgivable or interest-free), tax reimbursements or matching grants for things such as signs, facades, tipping fees and the like. It’s like an economic stimulus package for the local economy.

“The whole point (of the CIP) is to support new businesses and residential units and by extension, jobs and commercial assessment,” said Dana McLean, Development Coordinator with the City of Cornwall. “It’s aimed at bringing people Downtown to shop, work and live.”

This year, roughly $400,000 was invested in 20 different development projects through the Heart of the City CIP. That funding helped to leverage over $1.15 million in private sector investment in the community.

Since its launch in 2006, the program has supported over 240 applications and best of all, it’s self-supporting. The funding does not have a direct impact on the tax base. Rather, it comes from the annual interest generated by a $3.5 million reserve fund that the City of Cornwall holds.

Some of the more notable buildings that have benefitted from the program include Schnitzels European Flavours, Kid’s Korner, Esca Gourmet Pizza + Bar, Cline House Gallery and Echo Trends, to name but a few.

You can now add the corner of Pitt and First Streets to the list.

“The program works and you can see that with how the Downtown area is continuing to rejuvenate itself,” said Mrs. McLean.

For more information on the Heart of the City CIP, please click here:

Heart of the City

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