OPINION: A tale of two cities

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: A tale of two cities
One of the tall ships at the Tall Ship Festival in Brockville in 2019 (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

Being on social media this weekend, I saw that many of my Cornwall friends had headed down to Brockville to check out the Tall Ships festival.

I had never been to Brockville, so I figured that this was a good excuse as any to check it out for the day.

Despite being half our size, Brockville is Cornwall’s closest comparator city, but in many ways, I feel there is no comparison at all.

The first major difference I noticed was that all of the old historical architecture and buildings that are still everywhere throughout Brockville’s downtown core. These buildings are all beautiful and it is great to see that Brockville has learned how to preserve its history and repurpose it. These old buildings are not just museums, but they’ve become doctors’ offices,
restaurants and businesses. The preservation of history does not have to mean the halt of progress. Interwoven with these historical structures are newer condo buildings and other offices. Preserve what you can, and allow progress where it fits. Although Cornwall has lost much of its history to fires or cleared away for newer buildings, it is good to see that when it comes to the Cotton Mills district of our city, we are following a similar path as Brockville. Older structures are being preserved, and new developments are going up where they fit.

When it comes to Brockville’s downtown, the difference is like night and day. The downtown of Brockville is vibrant and there are no empty storefronts. It almost reminded me of Old Montreal with the variety of stores and how busy it was. Cornwall’s downtown along Pitt St. is very different. We are still experiencing growing pains in our downtown. There are quite a few empty storefronts. This is not to say that there aren’t those who have taken important steps forward. Business owners like Randy Sauve and Andre Pommier are strong advocates of our downtown core and have made strides towards making their part of Pitt St. a place to be. The same goes to our Tourism Department and those who hold events in the downtown like Art Walk and Food Fest.

These are all great things in Cornwall, but it is hard to go to Brockville and see every downtown storefront filled and not wonder if something could be done differently.
I think the differences you see in Brockville and Cornwall come down to history and culture. Cornwall has a rich history as a manufacturing town, a history we should be proud of, but as we all know, the factories and mills are gone now, and the transition away from that economy has not been easy. Brockville on the other hand seems to have embraced the tourism economy wholeheartedly and it shows in its downtown.

Cornwall is currently developing a plan for its future waterfront. The Brockville waterfront plan is titled the “Downtown & Waterfront Master Plan”. Perhaps Cornwall should take a similar approach. There are a lot of great ideas in the latest draft of the waterfront plan, but because of the downtown’s proximity and need for attention, I think that it should be included in that plan as well.

What do you think readers? How do you feel we compare to Brockville? Email your Letters to the Editor to nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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