Edmonton industry leaders look for ways to improve downtown

It’s no secret Edmonton’s downtown is struggling. At the centre of the conversation about ways to change that: getting people back.

Downtown has been struggling with office vacancy for years, and it wasn’t just during the pandemic. Right now the rate is sitting at 23 per cent, and in 2019, it was slightly lower at 21 per cent.

Vice Presidents of CBRE Edmonton Office Mark Anderson said issues of safety and security are part of the reason people are staying away.

“What we need to do is bring more people into the core itself, and I know there is a bit of irony in how I am laying that out, because they don’t want to come downtown but that’s also the solution to the problem.”

“It’s really critical to once again bring people back downtown, and the business cases for these retailers to stay and grow and open up new businesses is going to be heck of a lot stronger,” Anderson said.

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Click to play video: 'Real estate market changing in downtown Edmonton'

Real estate market changing in downtown Edmonton

Industry leaders voiced their thoughts on Wednesday during a panel. They stressed these struggles aren’t unique to Edmonton. They say it’s important not to give up because doing so would impact the entire city.

“It really means something to our taxes that downtown’s assessment and taxes stay strong because we see in other markets that floods outwards, and residential property taxes go up,” NAIOP executive director Anand Pye said.

“Downtown is the place most people are going to see in Edmonton, whether they are newcomers to the city, businesses we are trying to attract and tourists.”

“We want to make sure we have a good place for people to come and show off the city.”

Pye said he thinks policies by the city and the province are going in the right direction to help downtown.

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Click to play video: 'Community advocates question if more police in downtown Edmonton will solve social disorder'

Community advocates question if more police in downtown Edmonton will solve social disorder

“We are seeing priority being put on safety and security, cleanliness and maintenance.”

Ward O-day’min Coun. Anne Stevenson listened to the panel and plans to pitch development incentive programs to council and to continue to find more ways to improve safety in the city’s core.

“The success of our downtown become a self fulfilling prophecy, focusing on the positives and encouraging people downtown while not shying away from the challenges and the difficult conversations we might need to have,” Stevenson said.

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