Business association looks to expand revitalization zone

A designated downtown area where businesses pay a levy to further their common interests may be expanding in 2016.

A designated downtown area where businesses pay a levy to further their common interests may be expanding in 2016.

The DBA is considering broadening the Business Revitalization Zone to include the businesses within the Greater Downtown including Riverlands and Railyards.

Amanda Gould, DBA executive director, said the downtown has grown significantly over the last few years but the DBA only reflects a small part of the growth when looking at the downtown’s footprint.

“The DBA is almost like the hole in the middle of a donut,” said Gould. “Are we actually reflecting the needs of the entire downtown … when we advocate and talk about the the things that a downtown needs? … That is the big question.”

A total of 497 businesses currently fall within the BRZ. Gould said they do not know how many businesses are within the potential expanded borders.

The DBA held a number of open houses to connect with the different businesses this past year.

But Gould said they haven’t had too much feedback.

Gould said by expanding its borders, the DBA would ensure it was fully representing all the businesses in the downtown. It would allow the DBA to retain the existing businesses and bring new businesses into the core.

Once businesses are part of the BRZ they will be subject to a levy depending on the size of the business. Earlier in December, council endorsed the DBA’s $632,595 budget for 2016. The BRZ levy will bring in $375,845, about 59 per cent of the DBA’s budget in 2016.

The rest of the budget is generated through the city environmental contract to keep the downtown looking beautiful, event sponsorship, office space subletting and advertising.

Gould said it is vital the DBA is positioned to implement a well thought out business attraction and retention program so it can stand alongside ‘location competitors’ and offer a downtown solution that is strong enough to rival any other location.

“2016 is the year we prepare ourselves to take a role in economic development for 2017,” she said. “The 2016 budget will position us to hit the ground running over the following years.”

In January the DBA board of directors will meet to determine whether this is the next step for the DBA. Following this step, the board would have to submit a request to the city before any changes are approved.

In 1984 businesses in the downtown area established a Business Revitalization Zone to guide the progress of Red Deer’s central business district.

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