December 12, 2017 7:43 pm
Updated: December 12, 2017 10:05 pm

New option to deal with vacant commercial space in Edmonton

"This Open Space" is being compared to Airbnb for commercial space. Adam Bent and Gilliam Watson feel it could help reduce Edmonton's vacancy rate. Jennifer Crosby finds out more.

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In an old brick building just northwest of downtown, a bright, open retail space sits at the ready, but for the last six months it’s been under-utilized.

“It’s a beautiful, vacant space that we just don’t need yet,” Garner Beggs explained.

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Beggs is behind Duchess Bake Shop and Café Linnea.  He and his partners leased space in Holland Plaza, setting up a teaching kitchen and a retail store. The latter was moved back to the bake shop, leaving the space idle.

“We haven’t really had the time to do a thorough search to try and find the right person to come in,” Beggs said.

READ MORE: Downtown Edmonton office vacancies see developer calling for action 

But a new option has caught his attention. It’s called thisopenspace and it’s coming to Edmonton.

“We’re an online marketplace for short-term creative and commercial spaces,” said Adam Bent, a co-founder of the site.

Edmonton will become the fifth Canadian city to have listings.

WATCH: What will happen with vacant downtown Edmonton office space?

Watch below: Vacant office and retail space isn’t a new problem in Edmonton but now, there’s an innovative way to tackle it. Vinesh Pratap looks at an approach that’s a lot like the Airbnb model.

Tenants could be as simple as someone looking for photo shoot or off-site meeting spaces, to pop-up art shows or retail, with the potential to bring in international brands.

“It’s not that retail is dying; retail is just changing,” Bent said. “With the increase of online and e-commerce being the priority for most brands that start these days, there isn’t the same need for long-term leases and a large real estate footprint, globally.”

“It’s a huge concern of ours because it does have a direct impact to our city’s vibrancy,” Gillian Wilson said.

Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), concerned about the growing number of ‘for lease’ spaces, worked to team up with what’s described as the space matchmaking service.

“This is going to be a really great opportunity for businesses who might not be in that place to go and drop a five-year lease somewhere; it takes time to get there,” said Wilson, a business development manager with EEDC.

READ MORE: As downtown booms, will Edmonton have too much office space?

The initial goal is to gather a listing of about 100 available spaces across the city, and then take it live some time in the New Year.

“It’s a pretty versatile space, I think,” Beggs said.

At Holland Plaza, he plans to take advantage of the new service, eager to have a neighbour, albeit temporary, next to his teaching kitchen.

“If you want to activate the economy, especially on sort of the grassroots level, things like this are really, really important.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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