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Downtown Real Estate

thommyjo

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^^^ seconded! As a laclustre-income-zillenial with an increasingly dim career outlook, I agree very much with the 'shopping isn't a big draw' notion. Myself and almost all of my peers don't value shopping the way I think previous city-builders expected us to. We still like stuff, but not to the extent of "Downtown doesn't have any stores selling Gucci (Holt Renfrew) or a Perfume Maze (the Bay) anymore, I'm not going". That's not why we were going in the first place. as @Stevey_G points out, there are much better options in the city if one simply wants to acquire stuff at a large scale, quickly. Big box stores (and yes, I'm lumping the by into this, because it too is just a big box, just one with a posh logo and high prices) don't give customers experiences. They don't make the buying experience special enough to make it worth visiting, versus shopping online. If you want to have fun, shop local, if you want stuff, cheap and fast, shop amazon.
Downtown's role is to be a place that's pleasant to be in, vibrant and alive, for people who aren't spending money, at least not expressly. When I or my friends choose to go downtown, it's because we can get food (ngl I think food options are still super important) somewhere, then wander around and see cool stuff, like a festival at Churchill Square or the lights at the Legislature at Christmas. It's about experiences, and being in a lively, inviting environment. If my friends or I just wanna shop, we'll drive or bus to West Ed. Stand outside the cordon at the Gucci store and pretend we're fancy. Go to Value Village, and find stuff that's actually in our price range. That's how shopping is done when you're a young person. Or it's online.
I think we need to not fixate on these particular store closures, ie Holt Renfrew or the Bay. as indicators of large trends, yes, but not as huge losses in and of themselves. They were going to become less and less relevant in the City anyways.
I'd argue the better question is, how to we support positive experiences downtown? How do we make it safe again? How do we support small, local, unique businesses that do offer a genuinely positive experience to buying in-person? How do we get Transed to finish up, pack their shit, and move on so we can reopen Churchill Square to festivals? I think a lot of the talk about downtown is focusing on rebuilding a model centred on consumerism that won't find success with younger generations. our current Covid, construction, and houselessness issues are just making that hit all at once.
100%. Especially when we aren't catering to rodeo or Hollywood boulevard tiktok influencers. We don't have the young person/luxury consumer base here that Vancouver has from China, LA has from entertainment or NY has from finance/ tech. The under 40s who stay in our city aren't dropping 3k on suits or purses very often.

The experiences is key. This summer I got tons of friends to bike into the core for 124st market and heading to campio or Oliver exchange. People absolutely loved Paul Kane park and one night there was classical music and small vendors in beaver hills with the waterfall going. Or 104st in the past id brought friends to mayday dogs or events at startup edmonton. Or when I lived at the hendrix people loved coming to the rooftop and seeing the city, the river the greenery.

And multiple times in all those experiences people would say wow, I didn't realize this was here. Or how nice this was. Or this is really cool. Etc. Some of those friends are now on 104st or 124st. Their first exposure was hanging out with friends and having a memorable experience.

And I doubt any of them even thought about proximity to xyz stores when they moved downtown. Even logical things like groceries people don't overthink because in edmonton we're used to living wherever and having quick drives or ordering online. It's a perk im sure to have some handy things nearby, but idk people living in condos going to home depot in person. Watch a YouTube video and order online. The feel/experience/attractiveness of core neighbourhoods i think is their true sell to young people.
 

TAS

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I didn't vote for him, but Oshry had some good ideas (all the major contenders did) that I think need to be adopted or considered by Sohi and council. In his platform, Oshry highlighted he would make it a priority to have many more events and experiences in the downtown - he said he would like to see something going on most nights.
While that would help bring more people downtown to visit, it would also be an important factor for many people wanting to live here.
 

Avenuer

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Downtown ceased to be a major retail destination in our city decades ago and that is ok. What I think should be the focus now and into the future is dining and entertainment, as many forumers have referenced already.

There has always been a great assortment of high quality restaurants and bars Downtown, in addition to major cultural attractions like the Winspear, Citadel, RAM (a new addition), Art Gallery of Alberta, main library branch, Rogers Place as well as smaller attractions like the Starlite Room, The Station on Jasper and 99Ten (Downtown adjacent). These will continue to attract people Downtown, not any retail offerings.

One gripe I have with retail offerings Downtown and central Edmonton in general is the lack of a hardware store. I realize the Home Depot at Westmount is central-ish, but I think a store is sorely needed anywhere between 124 Street, the Yellowhead, the river and Wayne Gretzky Drive. I would've loved if the future Walmart going into the old Sears in Kingsway was going to be a Lowes or Home Depot instead.
 

TAS

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For the relatively empty Ice District, I think the OEG should follow the lead of the little guys, CommAlert for instance, which donated its unused downtown office space to a tech company in a competition which includes two years free rent and fully furnished. What a great initiative.


The Ice District retail space could be provided in some sort of similar fashion in a contest to some small local retailer/start up - whether it's free or significantly reduced for a set period of time.

Or maybe they just go hunt down a hardware company and provide a sweet deal for one of their many spaces to get some momentum going in the area.
 

IanO

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When residents are forced to drive out of a Downtown to find basic wares and offerings in the Downtown of a city of nearly a million and CMA of 1.5 it's a disservice to those choosing to live Downtown and makes it less attractive to those looking at moving Downtown.

While the world of retail is shifting and Downtown shopping is not returning to what it used to be, it's pretty sad how little you can actually buy Downtown at reasonable prices these days, if at all.
 

David A

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I have a retail solution... from now on @David A, @IanO and all of their friends must vow to NOT purchase anything more online; they must, instead, go to the relevant retailer downtown and make the same sought after purchase in-store and in-person and, on the hospitality side, they must also frequent a restaurant in the downtown precinct every time they eat out -- and that means actually going to the restaurant. Each time they do so they have to show proof of such purchase to the rest of us so that we know that they are part of the solution and not part of the problem. This way they can start a REAL "let's save the downtown scene" that has true meaning. Of course I am joshing -- but there is something behind this. Let's start a "Save the Downtown Edmonton" club. I know Ian in particular has posted meals that he has enjoyed at one establishment or another -- good-on-ya, Ian -- keep it up! Words like "Amazon" and "Walmart" must be discarded from their own personal lexicons and never mentioned again.
I'm not a big on line shopper, so I don't see myself as part of this problem, if this actually is the biggest part of the problem of downtown retail. An interesting anecdote - I used to shop at a store in City Centre, it was there for years. It closed and now I can only buy from it online. It has product not available elsewhere, so I do buy from it on line on occasion. If I stopped doing that, would the physical store then reopen?

However, I think the decline of downtown has been considerably greater in Edmonton, because on line shopping actually isn't the biggest problem here. I believe it was a combination of a downturn in the economy paired with people not working downtown due to COVID that have had the greatest impact here in recent years. As has been pointed out, downtown retail has done better in other nearby cities. Perhaps those specific economic factors here and COVID are not permanent situations, so things may bounce back, but we have dug ourselves a very deep hole here and I am concerned it may be difficult to get out of it. If we want to have a livable, walkable downtown, there really needs to be a reasonable variety of goods and services nearby and I don't think that should be ignored or dismissed.

Some people just say getting more people to live downtown will be the solution to revitalize it, but at this point I think there are other things than need as much time and attention as getting more residents.
 

westcoastjos

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I think people need to consider demographics when looking at downtown retail vs. what exists in other cities. Sure, retail has suffered downtown during COVID, but it has happened elsewhere too.

The types of retail on offer downtown in Edmonton were quite different relative to other cities long before COVID arrived and that has a lot to do with the demographics of residents and workers. I no longer live downtown; however, as someone that used to live on 104 Street, I never found retail options lacking. You can buy tech downtown, groceries, etc. It is only if you want a specific store to shop at that you have to venture further, but that exists in any City. Brands don't have multiples of every store spread across cities. When I lived in Vancouver, if you wanted certain stores, you still had to drive to get there. People weren't jumping on the Skytrain to go to Costco.
 

thommyjo

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Downtown ceased to be a major retail destination in our city decades ago and that is ok. What I think should be the focus now and into the future is dining and entertainment, as many forumers have referenced already.

There has always been a great assortment of high quality restaurants and bars Downtown, in addition to major cultural attractions like the Winspear, Citadel, RAM (a new addition), Art Gallery of Alberta, main library branch, Rogers Place as well as smaller attractions like the Starlite Room, The Station on Jasper and 99Ten (Downtown adjacent). These will continue to attract people Downtown, not any retail offerings.

One gripe I have with retail offerings Downtown and central Edmonton in general is the lack of a hardware store. I realize the Home Depot at Westmount is central-ish, but I think a store is sorely needed anywhere between 124 Street, the Yellowhead, the river and Wayne Gretzky Drive. I would've loved if the future Walmart going into the old Sears in Kingsway was going to be a Lowes or Home Depot instead.
I would also love to see our "cultural centres" do more events. Like who wants to go to the art gallery? Very few people I know would care to. Maybe for a wedding? But imagine if they did more paint and wine nights, date night experiences, photo shoots and art walls for teens and young adults to do IG and tiktok content with?

Its an overpriced, boring, stuffy old person place to most people under 30 in our city id say. But a little innovation could make it a super attractive spot for date nights, uni student outings, etc. And I know they do some stuff here and there, but I've never found it interesting as a young person. Maybe they're ok with a 50+ target demo...but idk. Seems like a waste.
 

IanO

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I guess you have never been to a Refinery party have you? At one point the hottest ticket in town... for years actually.


 

IanO

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Even the RAM did the museum at night events (only a couple due to funding constraints... don't get me started).

But yes, more of those please and thank you and now include the Milner, Citadel and Winspear.

Park Downtown with 2500 folks each month or quarter with these kinds of things and let businesses KNOW so they can respond to this.

The number of times larger one off events happened and everything was closed after 6 or 9 blew me away.
 

cliffapotamus

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I would also love to see our "cultural centres" do more events. Like who wants to go to the art gallery? Very few people I know would care to. Maybe for a wedding? But imagine if they did more paint and wine nights, date night experiences, photo shoots and art walls for teens and young adults to do IG and tiktok content with?

Its an overpriced, boring, stuffy old person place to most people under 30 in our city id say. But a little innovation could make it a super attractive spot for date nights, uni student outings, etc. And I know they do some stuff here and there, but I've never found it interesting as a young person. Maybe they're ok with a 50+ target demo...but idk. Seems like a waste.
former AGA staff here, so obviously biased. Pre-covid (and post-covid, once restrictions ease) there were actually a lot of the events you list running. Adult paint nights were run by the education department, teen art classes, weekly drop-ins, and a teen arts group running it's own events. On top of the Refinery Parties cited by others (which folded while i was working there; i wasn't involved in that but cost was becoming an issue) the Gallery openings (when one of the floors turns over to a new exhibition, which happened every 4-6 weeks or so) were events like what you describe; with food, music, and of course early access to the shows. they were free events to members, a 65$ a year commitment. Pretty much nothing but Refinery, AOTB, or the Christmas Dinner Event had dress codes, and most events were quite casual in nature, like a bar with art. it's also free for post-secondary students to visit, any time.
That being said, they could do better at managing their image. I had to deal with a lot of people unfamiliar/uncomfortable with the gallery environment, including one person who called ahead asking what the dress code was, because (direct quote) "in the movies everyone is always dressed in tuxedos and stuff and i thought we had to dress like that to visit". So i'm not gonna argue with the perception you cite, as a lot of people share it. but it isn't true. the AGA is a lot more down-to-earth and plugged into the local arts scene that it seems.
 
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thommyjo

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Yeah, I feel pretty connected to all the city marketing channels (explore, curiocity, COE, local bloggers, etc) but rarely see anything from those downtown venues. Vs like when Soundwave is happening.

Thanks for sharing about what AGA has done though. Cool to see! In 2011 I was like 14, so probably why I was as in the loop haha.
 

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