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Edmonton looking at ways to improve evening economy

Edmonton city councillors are being presented with ideas to encourage people to patronize events and businesses past 5 p.m. city-wide.

Next week, the executive committee will be presented a report developed by Explore Edmonton and Night Time Economy Solutions, a company out of the United Kingdom.

“We all think about economic development from sort of 8-5 but we need to think about people looking for an opportunity after 5 p.m.,” Explore Edmonton’s Traci Bednard told Global News.

The goal is to improve the local economy by getting people to stay out into the evening and nighttime.

That could mean attracting more events and venues, businesses and other draws.

The report surveyed thousands of people, businesses and students.

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Among its findings, it says people are increasingly interested in different experiences open later at night including night markets, shops, theatres and restaurants.

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It also found that crucial to increasing traffic is improving both transit and safety throughout Edmonton.

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“That’s not really new information for us so I’m curious to see how council reacts,” said Edmonton Downtown Business Association CEO Puneeta McBryan.

McBryan pointed out countless reports have already shown the need for better transit and safety and those two points have been prioritized in the city.

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The report also suggests the creation of a night mayor position.

Rather than an elected mayor, the person would be appointed to represent and advocate for the nighttime economy strategy.

They would also be tasked with bringing together stakeholders to identify how to achieve the strategic goals.

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“We need the infrastructure and the supports in place not just for those participating but for the businesses trying to develop those opportunities as well,” Bednard said.

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Ward Papastew Councillor Michael Janz wants to know who will take the strategy forward.

“Who’s going to take it from here? We put money into Explore Edmonton, we put money into the city, we put money into our (business associations) … there needs to be somebody who ultimately owns it and takes the lead on it,” Janz said.

McBryan argued that does not have to be a dedicated position.

“I don’t think we need to create anything new here. I think the report reinforces that the things that need to be invested in and the problems that need to be solved are not new ones,” she said.

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Other cities including Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Seattle have also at least considered specific nighttime economy strategies.

According to the report, Toronto’s is one of the most developed as it was created in 2019 with three key goals including to improve safety. In that city, a member of Toronto City Council is designated as the “Mayor’s Night Economy Champion.”

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