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COVID-19: Downtown Winnipeg businesses still quiet — for now

Downtown Winnipeg. Downtown Winnipeg BIZ

Downtown Winnipeg continues to be a much quieter area than it was a little over a year ago.

A new poll conducted by Probe for the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ shows most businesses are still electing to keep their employees at home, with no real increase in the past few months.

BIZ CEO Kate Fenske told 680 CJOB there has been a small increase in the number of people coming back to the office — at least some of the time — but the numbers, for the most part, have remained flat.

“In terms of the workers that are back full time, there really isn’t much that’s changed since December,” Fenske said.

“We’re up to about 20 per cent of downtown workers are back downtown full-time, so that’s really a significant decline in traffic for downtown businesses.”

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Read more: New Downtown BIZ grant program to pair Winnipeg businesses for pandemic support

Fenske said she still believes the area is positioned to rebound nicely at the end of the pandemic, with over a billion dollars in capital projects currently underway.

With a focus on residential properties like 300 Main Street, the area will be able to come roaring back if Winnipeggers view it for more than a place to work.

“How can we make sure that we have a vibrant downtown that really is that destination?” Fenske said.

“So when our events, arts, culture, all come back, that we’re ready for it — but maybe some people don’t want to do the commute anymore, so maybe it’s downsizing, maybe it’s moving into a larger apartment downtown.”

Meyers Norris Penney regional manager Andrew Stibbard believes the downtown area is on the rise, with residential builds poised to drive growth post-pandemic.

“Density and safety drive a great, vibrant downtown. There’s been a lot of energy put into our downtown over the last number of years… and someone like me — I’m pretty bullish still,” Stibbard told 680 CJOB.

Stibbard said he doesn’t see an end to the traditional office coming anytime soon, believing people will look forward to getting back together in the same building once it’s safe to do so.

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“I think you can only do so many Zoom calls before you’re Zoomed out, and I think we’re going to see people really value the face-to-face interactive activity that you can only get working together,” he said.

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