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Downtown Oshawa is looking up

Though transition has been slow, signs point to a business and entertainment revival.

Oshawa's downtown is area in transition, where boarded-up buildings and empty storefronts share street space with busy upscale restaurants and ambitious restoration projects. Decay and degeneration is giving way to new development and a vibrancy not seen since the '70s.

The signs are everywhere. Among them:

The conference centre, to be built on a parking lot at Queen's Market Square, is "very significant," says Councillor Louise Parkes, who landed the deal by taking the developer on a tour "to show them we were serious about downtown." "This may be the domino that makes the rest fall into place," says Parkes, chair of the development services committee.

It's a viewpoint challenged by GM's recently announced plan to close the truck plant in the city, throwing thousands of people out of work.

Last month's year-to-date total of more than $242 million for building permits was the strongest in Oshawa's history, Parkes notes. "We are booming."

But more than that, "we're bringing high-quality businesses back into downtown."

Joe Bhola represents the new face of downtown Oshawa. Attracted by the city's efforts to revive it and "so many offices with working women," he and his wife Anjali opened Rheanna on Simcoe St. S. eight months ago. Selling high-end European fashions and jewellery, the boutique has been well-received since being officially opened by Mayor John Gray, Bhola says.

"We're doing well. There's a good office crowd and good traffic here. That's why I came – I love this area."

The Bholas' store is what downtown development officer David Tuley calls the "authentic environments" where today's consumers want to shop and socialize. That's one of the driving forces behind the new wave of business and commerce in the heart of the city, he says.

Like other urban centres, Oshawa fell victim to big box stores and indoor malls that pulled retailers out to the suburbs, says Tuley, who was hired two years ago to stickhandle the city's revitalization plan developed in 2005.

Proof of its turnaround is in the numbers: the commercial vacancy rate that was 28.6 per cent in 1996 now sits at 14.5 per cent. A year ago, there was more than 200,000 square feet of large office space sitting empty; today it's down to 40,000.

"It's been amazing," says Tuley. "It's an excellent sign." He thinks it's Oshawa's turn to blossom.

"The last bastion of development in the west GTA was Burlington. We're the final frontier, the largest urban downtown in the north and east GTA. We're still affordable and it's easy to come in and get your piece of the action. Compared to the rest of the GTA, we're kind of a golden nugget."

July 21, 2008 in Location, location, location | Permalink


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Always I want to love living in Oshawa. For this Currently I am finding a house to live in Oshawa.

Thanks!! for all great comments.

Posted by: Re/Max Ability | Sep 21, 2012 3:07:17 PM

Oshawa and the other areas were in need of rejuvenation. The golden nugget has bright days ahead, also with the RE market stabilizing and becoming affordable to the less wealthy.

Posted by: Toronto Home Renovations | Apr 19, 2011 3:24:46 AM

As a resident and a Realtor in Oshawa, I have absolutely love living in Oshawa already and with the new plans and the plans for new develpment, I can't wait to see what the "New' Oshawa will be like.

Posted by: Don Edmunds | Jun 16, 2010 4:32:05 PM

Hopefully GM can keep the car and truck plants open as well. It's a shame how things have gone this year and Oshawa really needs to have GM plants running full steam.

Posted by: Darin | Jul 22, 2008 4:46:50 PM

Return to the 50's? I know you are joking, but the economy was thriving then. The good fro the 50's would be swell.

Posted by: Canadian Real Estate | Jul 21, 2008 5:49:58 PM

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