Mayor: ‘Music city’ London needs downtown entertainment district

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Mayor Ed Holder wants to capitalize on London’s “music city” design by turning part of downtown into an official entertainment district, saying it’ll help boost the city’s economic recovery.

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Holder’s looking for the rest of the city council to jump on board with his pledge, which he first floated at this year’s state of the city address. He’s bringing a motion to Tuesday’s planning committee meeting asking city staff to do the legwork and investigate the logistics.

What attracts people to cities and makes them want to stay is the amenities. The music, the artsthe cultureall those things that would compel people to say ‘things are happening in this city, and I want to stay, ‘”Holder said.

What we’re looking to do is to get moving, identify the district, and then identify the kinds of supportstangible actions (to) promote music, entertainment and culture for the city. ”

London was declared a city of music by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November, the first Canadian community to win the label.

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Holder seized on the designation in his annual state of the city address in January, the last of his term. The Mayor hasn’t yet declared whether he’ll run for re-election, but Promised an announcement in mid to late May.

As with other Promises made at the annual fundraiser, Holder will seek a wider endorsement from the full city council.

His motion headed to Tuesday’s committee asks staff to report back on “specific geographical borders” for a core area entertainment district, as well as a definition for the zone. Holder also wants bureaucrats to outline “tangible actions to be taken for late spring, summer, and fall months to demonstrate how music, entertainment, and culture can aid in fueling our community’s ongoing economic and social recovery.”

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Holder envisions a district that includes Harris and Labatt Parks, and stretches to King or even York Street, taking in Budweiser Gardens and other cultural landmarks such as the Grand Theater and Eldon House. He got he’s open to debate about the south and east boundaries.

It’s not yet determined what other privileges or rules would exist in an entertainment zone in London, but it could include broader bylaws to help promote live music and other forms of entertainment and events.

But downtown music and entertainment in the city hasn’t been without challenges. A handful of downtown residents recently wrote to the council advocating against an exemption to extend July’s Rock the Park concert series to a five-day event – which council approved – citing the noise, crowds and trash generated.

Holder, who repeatedly has declared “let the music play” when such a debate emerge, believes an entertainment district would help promote economic and social recovery after the COVID-19 Pandemic which further hollowed out London’s downtown and quieted many festivals and other cultural events.

I think this is one of the most tremendously exciting opportunities London will have as a retention tool for our citizens and people looking, where do I want to live as I get older? ”

Politicians on the planning committee are expected to discuss Holder’s motion on Tuesday at the 4 pm meeting.

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