Downtown business association launches programs, grants to revitalize Edmonton’s core

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The COVID-19 pandemic hit downtowns hard across Canada. For Edmonton, it came at time when the city says good things were happening to the core. As Sarah Komadina reports, as things start to return to normal, the city is planning for ways to once again stimulate vibrancy. – Jun 15, 2021

The Edmonton Downtown Business Association is working with partners including Avison Young, the University of Alberta, the city and province to support business growth, retail and dining in the core.

On Monday, the DBA announced three programs: the Downtown Retail Project, the Downtown Patio Grant and Business Adaptation and Revitalization.

The programs include a total of $1.8 million in funding for downtown businesses.

Downtown Retail Project

Applications are open for this program that will help remove barriers and reduce risk for opening physical storefronts in the downtown core.

Up to six retailers will receive up to $250,000 each to help offset the costs of building out a new downtown location.

Businesses will also receive three months’ free rent, marketing and other operational supports once stores are up and running.

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It’s a partnership with commercial real estate advisor Avison Young, which will lead site selections, lease negotiations, permitting, store design and builds for six successful applicants. Avison Young will also help retailers retain tenants and landlords.

“When we talk about downtown vibrancy, high retail vacancy and a lack of shopping options are among the most frequently brought up frustrations from downtown residents, visitors, workers, and business owners,” DBA executive director Puneeta McBryan said.

“We’re committed to help bring back a much-needed fresh and diverse retail mix to downtown Edmonton and support business owners who see the potential of our downtown by removing some of the high start-up costs and financial risk, which are often a barrier to entry.”

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The provincial government provided funding through the Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development. The City of Edmonton will also provide funding through the provincial government allocation towards downtown vibrancy efforts.

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“We are proud to support this creative initiative led by the Edmonton Downtown Business Association that will attract more retailers to Edmonton’s downtown core and ensure it continues to thrive as the economic and cultural heart of the city,” UCP Minister Brian Jean said.

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Interested businesses and property managers can read more about the project and apply online. Applications are due May 31 and applicants will be chosen June 15.

Downtown Patio Grant

Restaurants, bars and cafes within the DBA borders can apply for this grant.

Up to $5,000 is available per business, per location, to help cover costs for building a new patio or improvements or additions to an existing one located on public space, such as sidewalks, parking spaces or alleys.

The grant hopes to enhance “a lively and vibrant downtown streetscape and support the establishment of more restaurant patio spaces by reducing building and maintenance costs,” the DBA news release explained.

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“Patios are such an essential part of the downtown experience, and the last three years have showed us just how much of an impact we can have when we remove barriers and allow businesses to get bold and creative with their outdoor space,” McBryan said.

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Up to $240,000 in funding will be available until Sept. 30, or until funds are dispersed.

Funding for this project comes from the City of Edmonton’s Downtown Vibrancy Fund and the Edmonton Downtown Business Association.

Interested businesses and property owners can read more about the grant and apply online.

Business Adaptation & Revitalization

This program will connect downtown small business owners to financial support for business improvements, marketing support and other business expertise to help them adapt “to the ever-changing post-COVID economic landscape,” the DBA said.

Up to six businesses will be selected to work with the University of Alberta School of Business Student Consulting Group for six weeks to create an updated business strategy, business model, marketing plan and short-term action plan to help increase revenue and long-term sustainability.

Selected businesses will also receive up to $5,000 per business to cover implementation costs like digital marketing, signage and minor interior and exterior renovations.

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This program is a partnership between the DBA, the University of Alberta School of Business and the city.

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