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Annual Business Rivitalization Zone report gives inside look at downtown Lethbridge

Click to play video: 'Downtown Lethbridge BRZ releases annual report'
Downtown Lethbridge BRZ releases annual report
Watch: The Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone recently released its second annual report, outlining several accomplishments and trends from the past year. Eloise Therien takes a closer look at the key takeaways and how the downtown seems to be doing overall. – Apr 25, 2023

The Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone recently released its annual report, giving businesses and the public an inside look into what happened over the last year in the Alberta city.

Emily Chong, the marketing and communications manager at the BRZ, said their first report was developed one year ago, meaning they now have data for 2021 and 2022.

Some key areas of interest include the Clean Sweep Program and Festival Square events, while the report also addressed business occupancy rates and how tax levies compare to similar zones elsewhere in Canada.

“This year, 87 per cent of storefronts were actually filled in the downtown,” Chong said, adding it was 86 per cent last year.

“Some people might be saying they’re seeing a trend of less storefronts, but we’re actually seeing a little bit more than last year.”

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Clean Sweep Program

The Clean Sweep Program, which is funded by the City of Lethbridge and managed by the BRZ, is comprised of a team who maintains cares for the core of the city.

Crews spend around two hours each morning performing duties like garbage removal, leaf raking, basic landscaping and sweeping sidewalks. They also help deal with biohazards and encampment clean ups.

According to the report, the team spent more than 4,000 hours working in 2022.

“It was really great to kind of compare the statistics between the CSP particularly, and between this year and last year: where they’re finding more needles, where they’re finding less, it’s a really interesting kind of look into it,” Chong said.

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Cami Tanner, who owns Herbal Apothecary on 6 St. S., said she’s very grateful for their contribution.

“It is amazing what those workers do,” she said. “(They) really keep our city beautiful and clean and safe for everybody to enjoy.”

Festival Square

A major project funded by Alberta’s Provincial Municipal Stimulus Program, Festival Square is a community gathering space that opened in mid-summer. Since then, its held numerous events, including the downtown farmers’ market and viewing for the FIFA World Cup.

It’s located across from the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and Galt Gardens, just off 3 Ave. S.

According to the BRZ, 45 per cent of available days were booked for events, totalling 72 event days in 2022. They are expecting that number to be higher by the end of 2023.

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Click to play video: 'Festival Square Market Plaza officially opens in downtown Lethbridge'
Festival Square Market Plaza officially opens in downtown Lethbridge

“It was a great number for us, we were very happy with that,” Chong said. “We’re just really excited those staple Lethbridge events taking advantage of this space this year.”

Hunter Heggie, BRZ board member and local business owner, said he noticed the difference.

“We had more activities downtown, more festival things going on,” he said.

Addressing Safety Concerns and Social Issues

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As Lethbridge continues to deal with social issues, including homelessness and lack of affordable housing, Chong said some may still be hesitant to come downtown.

They are working on initiatives to reduce the stigma that the area is unsafe.

“Downtown is a very safe place to be. We’re here every single day but I know there are those perceptions,” she said. “A big part of our marketing campaigns are to kind of address the positives in downtown.”

Heggie is hopeful officials will be able to find solutions in the near future.

“We’re tired of seeing all the frustration on people’s faces, the frustration of people on the streets, and we’re hoping that the governments can step forward to help out,” Heggie added.

“It’s very complex, complicated. Every level of government is working on this right and now and the BRZ is pushing the city to do it’s very most.”

— with files from Quinn Campbell

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