Downtown business space is 25 per cent vacant

A report has found that a quarter of the commercial property in Cranbrook's downtown core is empty

At the July 15 council meeting, Coun. Angus Davis expressed his concerns about vacant buildings in the downtown core of Cranbrook.

On Monday, city staff tried to address those concerns, noting that there have been some improvements.

“There have been several developments that have moved forward over the summer,” said Kevin Weaver, the city’s economic development officer.

“One that has reached completion, the Heid Out, and two others that are nearing completion.”

He said there are also two properties that have changed ownership and so they are expecting activity and redevelopment with those – the Armond Theatre and Shenanigan’s Pub.

The report found that there is 100,000 square feet, or 25 per cent of the commercial stock, vacant downtown.

“In terms of the vacant state downtown, it’s not much different than what we reported back in March,” he said.

“A lot of this is related primarily to three large properties that take up the bulk of the vacant space.”

Those three properties – the old Super Valu, the former Giant Tiger and vacant space in the Baker Street mall – account for 60 per cent of the vacant space.

City staff reported that the remaining vacant space consists of various smaller properties, with 10 per cent considered prime in terms of marketability.

“A lot of it is questionable in terms of its marketability and the prices that are being asked for on those properties,” he said. “So there are certain things that would have to be done with those properties to make them more marketable.”

Those things contributing to the vacancy include property lease rates of $5 to $8 per square foot and the need for significant code upgrades for some of the older commercial stock.

He said the retail sector in the downtown core is at the same time being drawn to the desirable highway commercial properties. Such is the case with the new Sport Chek and dollar store being developed on Willowbrook Drive.

“We’re starting to see more interest in that respect,” Weaver said.

But he said the city is trying to work on opportunities to revitalize the downtown core, like the downtown revitalization tax exemption. The city is also working on business opportunities through the Opportunities BC initiative, a provincial web-based platform.

“We continue to work with the province with Opportunities BC and it actually does seem to be working,” he said. “Just this morning I was dealing with an inquiry as a result of Opportunities BC from the United Arab Emirates. So we are getting some further appeal and reach from that.”