Downtown businesses remain strong: city report

A new report completed for the City of Whitehorse provides an inside look at the retail, service and entertainment industries in the territory’s capital.

A new report completed for the City of Whitehorse provides an inside look at the retail, service and entertainment industries in the territory’s capital.

A draft of the Downtown Retail and Entertainment Strategy was presented to Whitehorse city council Monday night. It has been 10 years since a strategy like this was last completed for the city.

Retail businesses make up about 35 per cent of downtown commercial floorspace. The entertainment industry, which includes businesses like restaurants, bars and theatres, makes up another eight per cent. Altogether, that’s about 900,000 square feet of commercial space, which is a 32 per cent increase over the last time a survey was done.

There is currently a commercial vacancy rate of about seven per cent. According to the consultants hired to complete the study, a healthy vacancy rate is between five and seven per cent.

For three months over 2015-16, the consultants spoke to 16 business owners and members of the community and completed a market analysis.

“Overall, based on stakeholder feedback and the analysis of data, the city is doing a good job in many areas such as beautification, densification and walkability/livability of the downtown,” says a report from city administration.

“However there are many areas for improvement such as improved parking, street maintenance and better communication with the business community.”

The study makes a handful of recommendations of things the city could work on over the next 10 years.

As far as parking is concerned, the report recommends the city consider starting a program to top up parking meters online. It also suggests a joint effort with the Government of Yukon to encourage employees to use other modes of transport.

The city could also start a paid parking “amnesty” program from 5:30 p.m. on Fridays to 10 a.m. on Saturdays. Drivers could submit proof of purchase at a downtown entertainment venue to city hall in the following business week to have their parking tickets forgiven.

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