A NEIGHBORHOOD has become safer after closing down a convenience store that attracted loiterers, according to one opinion writer.
The location of retailers in a community can shape its public spaces and where people tend to congregate.
One city in Canada learned that lesson firsthand when a 7-Eleven store that had seemingly been the source of several problems closed — transforming the Gateway neighborhood ofGeorge.
“It’s been some time since the 24-hour convenience store on 20th Avenue closed its doors permanently,” Dean Soiland opened his op-ed for the local newspaper the Prince George Citizen.
is a city in British Columbia with a population of about 80,000 people.
“Since then, there has been a noticeable difference in the population of homeless, drug dealers, addicts, and others who would frequent the area and how much theft has drastically decreased in the surrounding area as well,” he said.
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Dozens of people used to hang out in the area, he said, but have dispersed to other areas since the 7-Eleven’s closure.
“While it sucks for those areas, the Gateway has seen a noticeable improvement in safety, cleanliness, and no big groups of users hanging around many of the businesses in the area.”
The neighborhood was designed to attract businesses and new residents in 1995, according to the city website.
“The Gateway stands out as one of the loveliest and most cared-for areas of Prince George, with mature trees, gardens, benches, brick sidewalks, decorative lamps, street banners, and art installations lining its streets,” it says.
But the neighborhood’s designers may not have anticipated the problems that loiters could bring to the residential area.
“Overdoses and thefts were a daily occurrence and caused no end of headaches and grief for both businesses and local residents and now instead of daily ODs, one employee stated they went two weeks without an OD on their premises,” Soiland wrote.
The author was also surprised by the impact that one business could have on the entire community.
“It is amazing how closing the doors of one business has improved the local area and improved the outlook of many people,” he said.
Soiland said he is not very optimistic about the trend being replicable in the, however.
“I hope it continues to get better as time goes on but I am also understanding that it can just as easily return to a disaster again,” he concluded.
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