5 Biggest Challenges Facing Mississauga in 2016
Going into 2016, Mississauga has new challenges and opportunities looming on the horizon. Last year was a transitional one with a brand new mayor, the guarantee of a brand new train and the emergence of solid plans to restructure and reinvigorate the city's transit system and improve historical nodes (namely Cooksville).
All in all, the future looks bright for our former bedroom community. That said, change can be challenging and here are some hurdles that the city will have to overcome over the next year and beyond.
5) Continue to Invest in Infrastructure
Back in December, City Council reaffirmed its commitment to investing $10 million in the development of UTM's Innovation Complex. The expansion of the new Hazel McCallion Sheridan College campus is expected to wrap up this fall. With new investments in academics and the expansion of the city's post-secondary institutions, it's time to think about creating a Mississauga that serves and caters to its growing student and academic population. The Sheridan College expansion in particular highlights the need for an even more vibrant City Centre. As it stands, Mississauga's downtown is dominated by a mall (a great one, to be fair) and walk-in clinics. More students could mean more demand for unique and affordable retail and foodservice options. It would be wise for the city to think about more ways to attract and sustain small businesses in Mississauga's key growing areas. This won't only be a boon to local entrepreneurs, it'll attract more students to Sauga's academic institutions, boosting the city's economy (and reputation) overall.
4) Continue to Focus on Transit
Mississauga's enormous growth has, naturally, led to gridlock and congestion. No longer a sleepy suburb, the car-is-king city needs to provide residents with new intercity travel options and it has indeed addressed transportation issues. Beyond the incoming LRT (more on that later), the brass at MiWay recently released a five-year plan that involves moving to a grid system and providing more efficient access to GO transit lines. You can read more about it here. The city has also identified Dundas as an "intensification corridor" in need of some form of higher order transit (most likely bus rapid transit). You can read more about Dundas Connects here. Although some residents might pooh-pooh these initiatives as wasteful, disruptive or unnecessary, the city should absolutely continue to identify and tackle ambitious and challenging transit projects.
3) Affordable Housing
This is a tough one because the city can only do so much to provide adequate housing options for low-income residents. When it comes to providing less costly accommodations, the city must work in tandem with all levels of government and abide by existing principles and policies in regards to social assistance. Affordable housing might become more of an issue with the construction of the LRT. According to a recent article in The Star, City Councillor Carolyn Parrish voiced concerns about climbing property values along the Hurontario LRT corridor displacing lower-income residents who might no longer be able to afford to live in their neighbourhood. During the same general committee meeting, Parrish said that a whopping 18 per cent of the city's residents live below the poverty line. At a time when property values and the cost of living have far surpassed wages, it's not surprising that housing is out many people's reach. All levels of government will need to come together to address this without abandoning much-needed transit and development projects. It's a formidable challenge indeed.
2) Continue to Pursue Ambitious Projects
Have you heard about all the plans for Mississauga's waterfront? There are two big ones in the works and they're appropriately grand. The first is Ward 1 Councillor Jim Tovey's baby and it involves creating a beach, hiking and cycling trails and scenic areas along a 65 acre space. The project is expected to become a tourist attraction. The city has also proposed Inspiration Lakeview, a project that envisions a ton of new residential and commercial units in the developing Lakeview district east of Port Credit. These are big initiatives, but they're good ones. If you build it, they will come.
1) Sell the LRT to the Public
The LRT isn't perfect, but it's the start of a new era of rapid transit in Mississauga. It's something we've talked about quite a bit this year. While there are valid concerns about the LRT displacing residents and shuttering small businesses by elevating property values and creating chaotic conditions during the construction phase, the old adage about having to crack some eggs to make an omelette stands. The project's proponents have been honest about the challenges residents and businesses could face when the $1.6 billion Metrolinx project breaks ground in roughly two years. They've also been honest about the benefits -- more efficient transport and alleviation of congestion in a rapidly growing city, reinvigoration along the somewhat tired Cooksville corridor and investment opportunities that could enrich the city socially and economically. Not everyone is on board and extra costs relating to construction and upkeep do need to be considered and accounted for. That said, the LRT is a bold and necessary project that the city should work to sell to residents and businesses alike.
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