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Business owners cast doubts on their future in Ottawa's ByWard Market, Rideau Street, poll shows

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More than half of business owners in Ottawa's ByWard Market and on Rideau Street say they are not planning to extend their leases or are uncertain about their future in the popular tourist area.

The Downtown Rideau BIA's Economic Well-Being Survey also shows the majority of businesses have experienced theft or shoplifting incidents "frequently or sometimes."

The BIA conducted a survey of more than 200 brick-and-mortar businesses that operate along Rideau Street and in the ByWard Market area to "provide real insight into the views and opinions of our local operators."

When asked about their lease renewal commitments, 45 per cent of businesses in the ByWard Market and 43 per cent of businesses on Rideau Street said they were uncertain whether they would extend their leases. Meantime, nine per cent of Rideau Street businesses and 19 per cent of businesses in the market said they would not be extending their leases.

The survey shows 40 per cent of businesses on Rideau Street and 21 per cent of businesses in the market indicated their businesses experience theft or shoplifting frequently. Another 33 per cent of businesses on Rideau Street and 35 per cent in the ByWard Market said their businesses were sometimes the victims of shoplifting or theft.

Costs attributed to theft last year totalled $1.36 million for businesses on Rideau Street and $107,800 for businesses in the ByWard Market, according to the BIA survey.

The survey asked business owners about impediments to business performance in 2024. The survey shows businesses in the ByWard Market cited several concerns, including lack of regular events to attract people, decreased foot traffic, inflation, financial climate, construction, poor transit and access to downtown, safety, shoplifting, street issues and vacant storefronts.

The survey does show businesses are reporting positives as tourists and residents return to the Rideau Street and ByWard Market areas coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seventy-seven per cent of businesses on Rideau Street and 61 per cent in the ByWard Market indicated their business performance in 2023 was "satisfactory, good or excellent."

Eighty-three per cent of Rideau Street businesses and 71 per cent of businesses in the market said their outlook for the 2024 business year was "satisfactory, good or excellent."

The Downtown Rideau BIA encourages the city to continue investing in the area and its assets.

"Needless to say, the continued health and well-being of Rideau and the ByWard Market, particularly their local businesses, are vital to the wider community and important for the city as a whole.," the report says.

"These areas are a symbol of Ottawa’s economic health, quality of life, community pride, and a reflection of our history in real time. Ultimately, these areas are invaluable community spaces where everyone is welcome and a part of our very identity as a city."

The survey comes as Ottawa police prepare to increase their presence in the Rideau Street and ByWard Market area.  Police will open a new neighbourhood resource centre in the ByWard Market, and are planning targeted enforcement blitzes in the area this spring and summer.

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