Red Deer downtown businesses weather a difficult year

Collected business taxes fall short of expectations

Last year was a tough one for collecting downtown business taxes.

Red Deer’s Downtown Business Association came up $17,847 short in 2016, largely because of the difficult economy.

“We’ve never seen numbers like this before,” executive-director Amanda Gould told council this week.

Although some downtown businesses closed, or left the business revitalization zone, city or province, Gould isn’t overly concerned because there had previously been growth in downtown businesses.

Council agreed to cover the shortfall on a one-time basis. City manager Craig Curtis said any future shortfalls would have to be rectified by the association — either through an increase in business tax levies for the next year, or a reduction of services.

Gould wasn’t worried about a repeat of 2016, which she feels was an unprecedented year. In her experience, each year’s levies have tended to cover the association’s annual budget.

Actions taken by the association’s 3.5 staff members to improve and market the downtown were submitted to council and several councillors expressed satisfaction with the list of 35 items — included markets, festivals, concerts and Art Alley projects.

Among the more unusual things done in 2016 were the creation of a public “parklette” out of some sidewalk space on Alexander Way, and the development of an enclosed yard with flower garden and mural behind the former Buffalo Hotel, now a transitional housing complex.

Gould said much of the loitering problem near the building related to residents having no recreational outdoor space, so “we gave them a private backyard,” in partnership with the the Downtown Community Development Committee.

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