City looking to spruce up some of Edmonton’s older shopping sites

EDMONTON – The City of Edmonton is working on a new pilot project aimed at sprucing up some of the city’s older community shopping sites.

“We’re talking about these older neighbourhoods that were planned in the 50s and 60s, where there’s a pocket of neighbourhood commercial embedded in the community,” said Walter Trocenko, with the city’s Housing & Economic Sustainability department.

“That pocket of neighbourhood commercial would have had the drug store, some small bakery, the butcher shop.”

The city’s ‘Corner Store Program’ would see some public dollars used to help revitalize older buildings in Edmonton’s mature neighbourhoods.

“The key thing is we’re talking about very limited tax dollars. We’re talking about a little bit of incentive to unlock larger private investment,” said Mayor Don Iveson.

The city has identified 110 such retail locations across Edmonton. Of those, three areas will be chosen for the pilot project. Each of those locations would receive $250,000 for public infrastructure improvements. There would also be limited funding for things like fa├žade improvements and marketing.

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“It would be great,” said Todd Panchuk, owner of Old Country Meat and Deli in Allendale. “Being a small business, we don’t usually have the funds to pour a lot of money into the aesthetics.”

Panchuk has owned the small deli for seven years. He’s established a great customer base over the years and says renovating the outside of the building may be a way to draw in new customers.

“It is quite dated just because of the age of it,” he said. “But cleaning up some of the front of it, I think it would just attract more people.”

While the locations for the project have yet to be selected, the city says it will be looking for businesses with the biggest chance for success.

“We need to find sites that are worthy of the city investment, we need to find neighbourhoods that would very much like to see their neighbourhood commercial areas revitalized,” said Trocenko. “And perhaps some sites that aren’t performing as well economically as they might have otherwise.”

“You’ve got to find willing landowners who are kind of on the bubble, trying to decide whether they’re ready to reinvest in their property,” Iveson added.

Both say it’s just a piece in the much bigger picture of overall community revitalization.

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“This is just adding in the local business revitalization piece to compliment the discussions about, ‘How do you keep schools open in certain communities as a catalyst for density? How do you support more family-oriented infill housing?” said Iveson.

“There’s a movement afoot to go to a smaller boutique-style format of commercial. We think there is appetite to embed some of that into some of these older neighbourhoods,” added Trocenko.

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.