Revitalizing Jamestown in Sault Ste. Marie
For years, public gatherings were uncommon in the James Street neighbourhood of Sault Ste. Marie. Well, it appears things are changing, as residents, along with the city, are making an effort to alter the reputation of the west end community.
The steel plant looms large over the once thriving blue collar neighbourhood, but in recent years, playgrounds have been quiet and the streets empty.
Jamestown residents and business owners say they reached a breaking point about two years ago.
"It was really bad. Drunks, drunks and drugs were rampant. People were afraid to go out." said Patti Gibson, who lives in the area.
"This area was a neglected area of the city. And it had seen its worst decline ever and now it's coming back. It's clean. People are coming out, it's awesome." said local business owner Alan Spadoni.
An outdoor market is part of the positive change happening in the area.
Over the past few years, a lot of money and time was spent improving the look and atmosphere of another neighbourhood with a bad reputation, Gore Street.
Now city staff and other local agencies are targeting Jamestown as the next revitalization project.
Melissa Ceglie is the manager of innovation services at District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Service Administration Board.
"We saw the opportunity to do something here. And doing a market like this where people have the ability to show off their talents and sell their items to the community was a perfect fit for it." said Ceglie.
Peter Tonazzo is a planner for City of Sault Ste. Marie.
"This area around here, there is a lot of city owned land here. We've got a small neighbourhood park, but I think there is the potential to do a lot more. Things like basketball courts, other outdoor play spaces, even an indoor play space. There's a lot of potential here." said Tonazzo.
Without the cooperation of James Street area residents, officials say any improvements will be temporary.
And those who live there realize that.
They say it will take the entire community coming together to keep the positive momentum going.
"I think it's wonderful, it's, we're talking to our neighbours again. It's great. We should open this area right back up again. I love it. More, we need to entice more businesses to come back down here. It's safe again." said Gibson.
Janet Gough is also a James Street resident.
"There's a lot of communication now between the city and us, and we're doing great. You just got to say ‘hi. You know, how are you today?’ You know, it's great to see all kinds of people and I'm friendly." said Gough.
The market was a pilot project for the summer months, but after watching it succeed, those involved say they are considering hosting other community get-togethers to continue improving the atmosphere and reputation of the James Street area.