The flight of businesses from the downtown core has been an ongoing saga for more than 10 years, whether it be due to high rent, competition from online retailers, or issues with loitering and homelessness. The city, meanwhile, has made attempts to increase residential development in the downtown core to help fill the void. Mayoral and council candidates were asked what they feel would be more successful downtown, business or residential development. Answers will be posted as we receive them.
Niels Konge, city council candidate
This is not a one or the other question. You need both for a vibrant downtown.
Robin Williams, city council candidate
I'm a firm believer that healthy urban environments have a healthy mixture of residents and businesses. Success downtown, I believe, will be achieved through economic development and growth.
William Gomes, city council candidate
I would like to emphasize on the bigger picture here. Our cost of living is increasing, our businesses in downtown are closing, our mining industry is suffering from uncertainty and our labour market is under the threat of massive job losses. Opening an opportunity to attract more investors in this town seems the most viable option for me. Developments in residential sectors are important; however, renting an apartment or purchasing a home requires a certain amount of household income which can only be achieved either from the business revenue or employment income. Businesses create the opportunity for employment, employment increases the opportunity of purchasing power, purchasing power increases the demand to purchase and finally, the demand provide incentives for suppliers to produce and supply products. In my opinion, I would rather attract more business development in the downtown core than residential development.
Bob Stewart, mayoral candidate
Residential development is most important. It will directly improve the business atmosphere downtown and businesses would prosper as a result.
Cynthia Mufandaedza, city council candidate
As a growing city, if Yellowknife would look at a population growth strategy that targets Millennials and young professionals, and retirees, then developing downtown residential units would be the way to go as well as providing a policy that supports business to remain downtown. Young professionals and seniors generally want to live in a city, where they can walk or bike to work and have amenities such as the library within walking distance.
Julian Morse, city council candidate
We need a balanced mix of both for a healthy downtown - the two go hand-in-hand. I am supportive of measures to attract commercial and residential development in our downtown.
Rommel Silverio, city council candidate
I think we need to create both. I think downtown should be developed for both business and residential. We want to see more constructions of affordable rental housing units. There are some zoning issues that need to be resolved in order to maximize the potential use of some vacant lots. There are some social issues that need to be addressed to attract people and businesses to live or operate downtown. I see that when downtown is densified with residential population, business will flourish.
Jerald Sibbeston, mayoral candidate
More high density residential downtown in the very core would make the most sense to complement the already available commercial space. Just to toss an idea out there, could the Bellanca tower be redeveloped into residential or even better, into a hotel? The city could make the permitting process for such a project possible. I would also encourage a bit of high density buildings near the Yellowknife Co-op and hospital area to complement our downtown offerings with some uptown offerings. I am going to try to open up the land between Frame Lake and Niven Drive near the Legislative Assembly, so much of that will be near the downtown core, and some would be closer to Range Lake. I see us seeking proposals from developers to build on the city lots downtown if the project fits. If those lots were sold, I would put the funding into tourism marketing.
Mark Bogan, city council candidate
Business development. However, the NWT has some of the highest crime, drug and alcohol consumption plus family violence, rates in Canada. Not the kind of attributes that attracts investment dollars.
It is my intent to reach out to various stakeholders, education, policing, recreational and social services to have a comprehensive community voice in improving Yellowknife.
Edwin Castillo, city council candidate
Personally, I believe the city needs more downtown business investment and development in order to grow and sustain the city in the long term. Without this investment it would be a difficult o attract visitors and new residents that would add to the revenue base necessary to the city’s development .
Adrian Bell, mayoral candidate
Business for now and residential in the future. Our empty downtown mall gives many people the impression that the downtown is a bad place to do business, but I know from personal experience that’s not the case. The “indoor mall” format of commercial space has been dying across Canada since the 1990s, but other, sometimes older formats are back in style. The Fat Fox Café was a perfect example of a space that can work. Overlander Sports is another. If elected mayor, I will make it my personal mission to attract investment to all areas of town that have untapped potential and where, for a variety of reasons, the private sector needs a bit of a nudge to get things rolling.
John Dalton, city council candidate
Business or residential development are both seriously affected by our issues in the downtown area, but solutions are available. With innovation and a combined co-ordinated approach between agencies and government and cost and a commitment to the long term by all, thing can change. In the short term residential development is most likely to succeed as accommodation is always needed and taxes and overheads are normally fairly fixed.
Stacie Smith, city council candidate
Residential development will not succeed in downtown if there aren’t any businesses to work at. This is the main reason people choose to have homes in the downtown area. Business development should be a top priority in the revitalization project.
Shauna Morgan, city council candidate
We need both – they complement each other. For instance, you could have a building featuring storefront businesses on the ground floor, and housing units built on upper floors. More people living downtown will mean more people shopping and eating downtown, which will increase the vitality of our city centre.
Dane Mason, city council candidate
Why not both? Mixed use should be encouraged (café/local shops on the ground, residential on the top), and changes to the policy framework surrounding accessory dwelling units would help us make better use of available land by incrementally increasing residential density, and provide steady foot traffic to keep businesses in business. But really, if a developer is ready to sink investment into one of our many empty lots, should the city look a gift horse in the mouth at this point?
Rebecca Alty, mayoral candidate
Our downtown presents opportunities for innovation and investment as part of a larger strategic plan. There are opportunities to achieve success for both business and residential developments. A lively downtown typically has a healthy mix of both. To encourage both residential and commercial development we need to make some changes. I propose working with council on revising the zoning bylaw to decrease parking requirements, expediting development permits for downtown, and/or revising our Development Incentive Bylaw.
Chris Gillander, city council candidate
The downtown should take the form of a combination of business and residential development. By re-zoning certain parts of the downtown to allow for select commercial residential hybrids, we could reduce costs to small business owners. Instead of paying a mortgage and rent at a downtown storefront, they could have a single mortgage with their store in home, while staying accessible for tourists and locals.
Terry Testart, city council candidate
All, with better planning.
Josh Campbell, city council candidate
Both. The city of Belleville, Ontario took on a neat downtown revitalization model by working with the business community while also addressing housing. It's a common theme across urban Canada after the 1990s saw many urban centre downtowns crumble and give way to the big box strip malls away from the urban centres.
In Belleville, boutiques, small businesses, similar to what's on Franklin Avenue downtown made a comeback, and above the stores and storefronts buildings and companies made loft apartments. Great for young professionals working in the government and commercial sectors. Another theme to consider here is absentee landlords. How many large properties are owned by big corporations who are not even invested in this community. How many years has the Precambrian Building stood vacant ... empty? The conversation needs to happen about the ludicrous rent in our malls, and the outdated store fronts. What business wants to move into the Centre Square Mall? It is sad to see our Asian tourists wandering past so many empty stores in a mall, that the corporate landlord doesn't care or attempt to fill or attract business tenants.
Steve Payne, city council candidate
I think we need both.