How has COVID affected the Downtown? I get asked this question a lot.
The Downtown has seen a lot in its years. There are even a few downtown businesses that can tell you how the Downtown has weathered decades of ups and downs.
There is something special and unique about Downtowns. Shops, restaurants and galleries are locally owned. The owners live in our community. They rely on the income from their businesses to pay their mortgage, to buy their groceries, to pay for activities for their children. When COVID essentially closed their doors, they needed to adapt in order to survive.
It was incredible to see how quick the shops changed to curbside pick up and home delivery. It became a race to update websites in order to accept online orders and payments. Customer interaction and service was now via social media and the challenge was accepted as many Downtown stores kept busy by the support of those in Prince Albert that chose to shop local.
Many shops and cafes took the time to do a few renovations and improvements. Many small business owners find that the day to day operation of their business keeps them abundantly busy. This unforeseen experience gave them an opportunity to pause and reflect on their business goals and make plans for the future.
Some business owners really made the most of the opportunity like Cody at Limitless Gear who wrote a book! Icon Realty purchased PA Rental and Leasing and relocated downtown. Off the Cuff Improv moved into the Jam Street Sessions studio to continue to operate what Lucy James began and to expand on it's services.
New Business opening in Fall 2020: YPA Makers Market, BJJ Lab, African Grocery Store, and SS River Designs.
Weekly, I take part in meetings with the International Downtown Association and I hear many of the struggles and frustrations from across North America regarding Downtowns. Downtown Prince Albert has weather this storm admirably. The Downtown businesses have seen the support of the people of Prince Albert, at times they are pleasantly surprised by the amount of traffic coming through their doors. Because of the generous support they are finding that they have to restock their items more regularly and have extended their hours.
The University of Saskatchewan campus downtown has brought it's share of support and enthusiasm, but the Downtown business community has something that can not be found in a box store maze.
If you haven't visited the Downtown in a while I invite you down. Visit the new stores that have recently opened and stop by the businesses you know and trust. The fall colours, the history that remains and the friendly smiles you will encounter are all waiting for you.
The Downtown Improvement Reserve Fund Policy is:
a) to establish a reserve that is used exclusively for the Prince Albert Downtown Business Improvement District for projects or programs as approved by City Council; and,
b) to assist the Prince Albert Downtown Business Improvement District in their mission to facilitate the continuing development of a vibrant and prosperous downtown.
Each year $40,000 to added the PADBID Reserve Fund. The funds are the proceeds from parking meters fees.
Through the years funds have been used in a variety of ways for the benefit of the Downtown. Here are a few of the projects from 2019:
The Prince Albert Downtown Business Improvement District (PADBID) was established in 2003.
Starting in June 2002, over a six month process, workshops were held with stakeholders and focus groups to determine a shared vision for downtown Prince Albert.
The evaluation agreed that the focus should be primarily on smaller-scale development and incremental projects that emphasize the rehabilitation and renovation of existing space and building upon downtown’s strengths and assets.
These include the following:
Downtown region map
How is the PADBID funded?
The PADBID receives it's funding from a 5.8% levy on businesses in the downtown region, which annually equals $78,000. The City of Prince Albert adds $22,000 in lieu of taxes on their downtown properties. Currently, the PADBID annual budget totals $100,000.
Prior to 2018 the PADBID also received $18,000 from the Province in lieu of taxes on their downtown properties but that was withdrawn with budget cuts.
Annually the PADBID receives $40,000 towards a Reserve Fund that receives it's funding from proceeds from parking meters.
The Downtown Improvement Reserve Policy is:
Our next blog post will go into further details about what projects the Reserve fund has been used for over the years.
Where are we in 2020? A new strategic plan in the fall of 2019 has provided these priorities:
Prince Albert has a lot to celebrate in our Downtown.
With it's diversity in locally owned shops, various organizations and office buildings, over 4,000 people work in the downtown. Developers have been renovating residential suites to a high standard and young professionals are enjoying living the downtown vibe.
The University of Saskatchewan has purchased the Forestry Building, which has brought a lot of support to the downtown. Due to their commitment to our City and specifically our historic Downtown we have seen an increase in new business and one of the lowest commercial vacancy rates in years.
The Arts community has been growing and developing and making their home in the downtown, with thanks to the Municipal Cultural Action Plan through the City of Prince Albert. The talent of local artists in Prince Albert and surrounding area is world class.
The addition of the new Indigenous People of Prince Albert and Area Interpretative signage along the Rotary Trail on the riverbank you can begin to understand the history and the story Prince Albert has to tell.
There are a lot more stories to tell and information to be shared. Please follow along on our social on Facebook and Instagram.
Today we are starting a series of blog posts that will introduce you to downtown Prince Albert.
Over the past few months I have seen a lot of posts on social media based on ignorance regarding the downtown. Ignorance comes from a lack of knowledge or information. I will accept the responsibility for the of lack of information regarding all of the positive things that are happening in the downtown. In order to correct this, I am starting a series of blog posts that will introduce you to and education you on all things downtown Prince Albert.
The area is rich in history and culture and the community atmosphere among the local business owners and local shoppers is unique and welcoming.
I have been the Executive Director for just over two years. It is a pleasure to serve the downtown community. The improvements and growth that I have seen in just two years is encouraging and more advanced than the majority of downtown's across Canada. As a member of the International Downtown Association and the Canadian chapter I am able to see what other communities are struggling with. Prince Albert is not only on the right track but ahead of the curve.
I have been able to participate in many walking tours of the downtown with Fred Payton and representatives of the Historical Museum. I have lived in Prince Albert for over 20 years and I was unaware of the amazing history and settlements that took place here that have helped shape Western Canada.
Over the next few weeks I will be featuring blog posts that will help introduce you to what you can find downtown, the uniqueness of Prince Albert that will hopefully encourage you to explore Downtown Prince Albert and have pride in your hometown.
We will also be showing features on our Instagram page and you can share along with us by using #princealbertdowntown
Downtown the cultural heart of our City. Locally produced, this video features a new song by Prince Albert's LJ Tyson and takes us through some of the well-known spaces that we all grew up with and even some that you may have never noticed before.
How many can you list? Leave a comment for us and see if you can name them all!