No one and nothing are left untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A well-distanced walk around a downtown business area in a small Ontario city delivers direct proof.

Oshawa, the only “real” city in Durham Region, has a gritty rep. Its urban challenges are not fictional, but neither are its prospects for comprehensive renewal in its downtown business area.

Ontario Tech University’s downtown expansion, the dignified Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel S. Sharpe, DSO, MP Courthouse, a modern central arena [currently the Tribute Communities Centre], and the transformation of the Genosha Hotel [ the “Genosh”] and the last incarnation of its basement, the Million Dollar Saloon strip club [the “Millie”], into luxury apartments are among the key indicators for a promising future.

But COVID-19 has assaulted the city core.  It’s trying to put an a#!-whipping on pizzerias, smoking parphernalia shops, music and entertainment venues, social agencies for pregnant women, boutique cakeries and others.

Some have shut down. Some have tried to adapt to a new reality of distancing and isolation.

The signs on the doors and windows tell the story of the pandemic in small urban centres: loss of control, economic disruption, limitations, apprehension, re-tooling and re-purposing, and traces of hope for what waits on the other side of the crisis.

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