Downtown renewal will not be enhanced or furthered if businesses and property owners are slow to remove graffiti from their premises.
With that in mind, we happen to agree with Gerard Wade, the owner of People’s Market Place on 13th Street, who told the Sun this week that businesses, government organizations and people must remain vigilant against the defacement of buildings.
“When you leave it on there, it is silent approval,” Wade said. “If you don’t remove it, you are condoning the person who has done it and they just move on to something else once it’s full.”
Wade knows what he is talking about — his business too has been the target of paint pranksters. And right now there are plenty of instances of graffiti in the downtown region.
Not long ago, the Brandon Police Service also advised that cleanup of graffiti should occur as quickly as possible to prevent further tagging.
“Leaving it in place just encourages more of the same,” Brandon police spokesman Const. Ron Burgess told the Sun two years ago, following one of the largest graffiti sprees in Brandon history.
Cleaning up this kind of vandalism is no cheap prospect. Graffiti can cost property owners thousands of dollars per year to remove, and the problem seems especially acute and perennial in the downtown region.
But when it comes to downtown heritage buildings — those with heritage status such as the Brandon Chamber of Commerce building — there are certain hurdles they must apparently face in removing graffiti.
Manitoba’s Heritage Building Maintenance manual states owners should clean masonry “using recognized preservation methods, and only when necessary,” to stop building deterioration, or during removal of graffiti or heavy soiling from heritage buildings.
Though recycling bins and mailboxes are popular items for graffiti tagging, so to are buildings with back alleys.
And unfortunately for the chamber, an obscenity that was scrawled in black marker on the front of the historic building has remained in place for four months. While we understand that there are necessary steps in place to prevent damage to the heritage building, members of the chamber must feel, like we do, that four months is simply too long to have to wait for the graffiti’s removal.
Certainly tagging detracts from the look of Brandon’s downtown region. But we also need to keep things in perspective. Though graffiti is an eyesore, so too are derelict, neglected and empty heritage buildings and businesses that do nothing to improve the area’s fortunes.
Graffiti alone is not preventing people from coming downtown, as it remains a symptom of a much larger problem. Were there more people downtown, and more activity, vandals would be less likely to frequent the area.
There must be something to draw people downtown in the first place. And while the situation is slowly changing, with new builds like the Dood Cristall Family YMCA, and the recently preserved CP Rail Station on Pacific Avenue, which is now home to Westman Immigrant Services — to name a few — much remains to be done.