“Our downtown is on the cusp of greatness once again and we’re looking forward to more events and more things to just bring folks downtown and keep them there longer,” said DBA Board Chair Brandon Bouchard.
DBA Executive Director Amanda Gould said the implementation of Ross Street Patio as an Entertainment District, where adults may consume alcohol outside of licensed premises with live entertainment, was successful in attracting residents to the downtown area to explore the murals, alleyways and businesses. She says there were no issues with over drinking and hopes the City, following potential construction of the street, makes the patio a permanent establishment.
READ: Ross Street Patio designated as Red Deer’s first Entertainment District
Gould says the DBA has welcomed 50 new businesses over the year, primarily small business entrepreneurs looking to trial run their establishment in a smaller-sized rental. While this has led to some turnover, she says the flexibility of choosing their own operating hours has attracted owners to the downtown area in comparison to malls with stricter rules.
Bouchard added that a commercial real estate agency recently shared that, quarterly, the downtown area has less vacancy and cheaper rental prices per square foot in comparison to north and south Red Deer.
“It’s all about sharing the good stories and trying to defeat the negative rhetoric that people have when it comes to our downtown because, honestly, the folks who live and work and play downtown, they know that it’s a safe, vibrant space with a lot of events and things to do,” he said.
Bouchard says that, like all major cities, the downtown struggles with social challenges. For example, while the downtown area was provided temporary public washrooms throughout the summer, Gould stated there were issues with service abuse after hours, leading business owners to refuse washroom access in their own establishments.
However, Bouchard says the DBA is working towards solutions.
The Association has partnered with a new Lived Experience Council, where individuals who have made it out of homelessness have one-on-one conversations with those still experiencing related challenges.
Bouchard himself has recently been appointed to the Housing and Homelessness Integration Committee as a community member representing the downtown.
In their budget, the DBA increased their funding towards the Cannery Row Clean Team for needle debris and Railyards Vandalism Grant. While some of these initiatives fall out of their territorial boundaries, Gould says it’s important to help change the negativity in the surrounding areas of the downtown.
Apart from the increase in the BIA levy, the DBA says their overall budget of $752,086 will be supplemented with $24,578 from reserves. Leaving roughly $160,000 in reserves, Gould says around $120,000 is kept to fund four months’ worth of DBA projects in case the association were to ever disband. The rest of the funds are raised through external contracts.
Gould says a few years ago, the province removed a large portion of grants directed towards provincial buildings in the area. She says the grant totalled roughly $200,000 or 40 per cent of their funding, leading them to cut certain programs like radio subsidization and staff hours. She says the Association has spoken with MLA for Red Deer-North Adriana LaGrange on the matter.
The DBA says their most popular subsidized programs will continue with a budget increase to reflect demand such as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and Façade & Shopfront Improvement subsidies.