What happened to Prince George?

Re: Adding to Kenneth Mason editorial and Don Zurowski 100,000 plan.

Prince George has fallen along the wayside while other cities in B.C. have prospered in terms of population, beauty, park amenities, and business investment. The city of Prince George in the 70s was bigger than Kamloops. What happened?

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Prince Georgians no longer really have to go to Vancouver to get specific items or a big city experience. Kamloops is bustling with a vibrant beautiful downtown complete with nightclubs, well-kept buildings, tall towers, busy homegrown men's store and shoe store, coffee shops, and bakeries. The city's downtown core is busy even on civic holidays and Sundays unlike the ghost town Prince George is on these days.

Recognizable high end hotels such as the Delta, Red Lion, and Hilton have built beautiful spa hotels there. Stores such as Cob's bakery, Chapter's book store, and Safeway have planted community roots there. My Italian, Indian and Chinese friends no longer go to Vancouver but only have to go to Kamloops now to bring back authentic foods and goods. Real ethnic cultural restaurants have been open and thriving in this city for years. You can even go out for Chinese Dim Sum there.

Starbucks was in Kamloops for five years before a single store was opened in Prince George. Chapters will not open here because its subsidiary Coles is here. Chapters will only open in a city that has more population with a broader reading acumen. A Hilton hotel will not invest their dollars here unless they have a large enough client profile to service. Cob's bakery's excuse has been that we also do not have the population base but their stores have opened up in smaller cities such as Vernon, Salmon Arm, and Penticton. If you read between the lines, Prince George's perception is a poor one and some say rhymes with "bed neck."

What exactly are we showcasing to the many visitors who will come here for the Canada Winter Games next year? We have cheap housing and high taxes. We have an ugly downtown. We are trying to attract more population from those escaping the high costs of the Lower Mainland. We are trying to attract those from the industrial boom. Why would these people come? So we have a geographic advantage? This is not enough to attract people come to Prince George and make the city their home. Soon to be Mayor Zurowski or Hall, what will you do differently than those mayors from the last 49 years?

I remember downtown revitalization talk from 1965. Then Mayor and Council's genius to bypass Cadillac Fairview and approve Parkwood can be seen as a huge failure. An outdoor mall in a city whose temperature can get down to -30 and beyond?

Pine Centre has the look of the 70s still. Downtown.... boarded buildings, vagrants, and disrepair. I remember seeing Bob Blumer walk very hastily and guarded from the Ramada Hotel to North 54. I wonder if he will promote Prince George?

Is it a bunch of business people holding on to these run-down buildings for speculative purposes? These owners have done nothing to add to the look of downtown and this has gone on for far too long. Can the City do nothing to force them to beautify to a proposed model or bylaw? Perhaps for real change and revitalization to the downtown core, the City of Prince George will have to get tough and expropriate these lands to be able to have control of them and to be able to attract real investors interested in making Prince George more attractive and dynamic. Your move, next mayor and council.

Eric Chow

Prince George

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