Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dec, 22: the main street mystery......

I wasn't going to write a blog today, and I can promise this will be a short one. I was out, today, shopping as always in a panic as Christmas nears. Traffic was heavy, especially as one approached any mall area. When I had finished by mall experience, I headed along Main St. to a grocery store close to home where I could find the won ton skins for the Chinese appetizer I had rashly promised to make. The grocery story was in Highgate Square, an old mall at death's door. The large, parking area was crammed. And that took my mind back to the drive I had just completed along Main St.

Dark was coming on. There was a very light snow with unpleasant touches of ice and wind. I saw a sad-looking car parked at a meter, lone and huddled into the curb as if to escape the bleak misery of the street. Beyond it, on both sides of the street, were long rows of meters, bravely standing up to the weather, each with its cap of snow, but few with an car for companionship. As I passed the office of the Moncton Times and Transcript, I noticed no cars parked at all, though the space was all metered. That pleased me. It meant that for the second Christmas in a row, the TandT's sales of "The Price of Honesty" will probably continue for at least a third Christmas - a useful tip that I now pass on to anyone  
thinking of a gift for me for next Christmas -  should I be suffering from dementia by  then.

But as I looked at the TandT building, I remembered its front page headline of very recent vintage.

The word then was that Main St. was going crazy with Christmas shopping; people were coming all the way from Boston ("Oh, my dear. Nobody shops in Boston any more. Moncton is the only place to go.")

Well, gee. They must be walking all the way from Boston, then spending the whole day inside the few shops that were available and warming up for the walk back. What is this blarney about Main Street? Why, in the last few years, has it become something to revive? The fact is that Main Street, in an age of demand for really big stores, is not suited for most shopping. That's why nobody was there.  And putting up a few parking meters isn't  much help.

So why does the Times and Transcript harp on Main St. - and things connected to Main St., like the hockey rink? I don't know how many editorials alone I've seen on the subject. And all of them boosters. What's going on? Let's take a guess.

It has nothing to do with town planning. I've seen no evidence of town planning, no news or discussion even of what kind of future it is that we have to plan for. What passes for planning in this city is immediate profit for somebody with influence. That's why Moncton has developed according to a town plan for 1950, with a heavy reliance on cars - mostly because the housing sprawls, making it expensive to service, and virtually demanding at least one family car. But 1950 was a long, long time ago. Yet we still put up big money for places like Royal Oaks that are half a century out of date.

Meanwhile, some pretty big land owners are stuck with property that is either useless to them and practically worthless, or declining in value. There is no market for it. The answer? Stick rate payers with the bill. So we're buying Highgate Square at a pretty good price for the owner, especially considering it is so heavily contaminated. How nice of the Minister of the Environment not to use his power to force the owners to clean up that land!

How nice to see for the provincial government and city council to some to such geegollywhiz agreement to put Moncton High School way out into a development that just happens to have some land left over!

It is quite possible, even likely, we are going to see a sharp decline in land values. It is quite possible that some pretty big landowners would like to get rid of their holdings before it's too late. They're too smart of buy it from each other. So they go after the easy mark.

That means us taxpayers to New Brunswick and ratepayers to Moncton.

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