COVID-19’s effects will be felt for some time to come, says the Red Deer Downtown Business Association’s executive director.
Amanda Gould said downtown has experienced recent tenant turnover, but COVID-19 has had an even bigger impact in the city’s core.
Among the changes is BMO Bank of Montreal’s intention to close its downtown and south Red Deer branches. The company will consolidate these operations in a new Bower Place mall location.
Red Deer College also announced recently it’s moving the Donald School of Business back to its main campus from its downtown location in January.
Another change in the city’s core is the closure of Chronicles Comics and Cafe on 50th Street.
“This is also a loss for downtown, but a business decision had to be made, and unfortunately, COVID has pushed several similar decisions to the forefront,” Gould said about the closure of the cafe.
“Chronicles provided a unique experience with a dedicated following, but we must focus on the positive moves happening downtown. The Artisan Food Market (on Ross) opened up just before COVID and have been doing exceptionally well during an unprecedented time,” Gould said.
Regarding BMO, Gould said, “any business leaving the downtown, is a loss for downtown. I understand why BMO have made the decision, but I agree with Mayor Tara Veer: BMO has been a significant anchor, and like all banks, provides a service that is needed in the heart of the business district.”
Gould said RDC’s decision to move classes from the Donald School of Business to its main campus is unfortunate, but the core of the city did not see a great deal of foot traffic from students.
“So I don’t anticipate there will be much of an impact,” she said.
There will always be business turnover, said Gould, noting it is the natural evolution of a downtown core.
“We have a new artisan food market and I know of a couple of other exciting moves that can’t be revealed just yet,” she added.
At the height of COVID-19, people were not leaving their homes, and this impacted everywhere in the city, including the downtown, said Gould. But that has changed over the past two weeks.
“We have seen a slow increase in foot traffic. It certainly isn’t like it used to be, and there is much to be done to get to that point, but it is better than it was six to eight weeks ago.”
Gould encourages Red Deerians to support the businesses and eateries downtown, now, more than ever.
“See what we have to offer, visit the Wednesday market, enjoy the patio, try a new restaurant.”