Is downtown still the place to be? Survey finds Canadians think downtowns have declined
A new survey finds nearly half of Canadians think the downtown core in their city has declined over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Leger survey shows 45 per cent of Canadians are more likely to indicate the state of downtowns in Canada has declined, while 15 per cent of respondents said they or a close friend/family member feared for their safety in a downtown in the last six months.
In Ottawa, Cedric Rarmarosandratana, the manager of the men’s clothing shop L’Hexagone in the ByWard Market, says although business has improved, he has noticed foot traffic is still lagging pre-pandemic levels. He says the lack of parking is mainly to blame and the lack of attractions to draw people downtown does not help.
"People they need to park their car to come to the stores and browse around," Rarmarosandratana said. "Help with advertising and more special events would really help a business like ours."
Rick and Janet Pringle live in Overbrook and like to get out and explore the city, but find barriers like the lack of parking, and, in some places, security is a concern.
"Parking is one issue, I would also say the neighbourhood sometimes," Rick said. "You need to have some attractions, you need to have something that keeps people wanting to come back, give it some genuine authentic feel and a reason to want to stroll and want to be there."
"If you can create areas without cars and make parking more accessible, free parking would help," Janet said. "I know around the LCBO on Rideau and around that area its not always inviting so that’s a bit concerning."
Veronique Labonte says she thinks Ottawa’s downtown is safe but tries to shop locally, places she can walk to. She feels transit is another barrier to getting into the core, local buses in her neighborhood are few and far between, making getting downtown a long and slow process.
"There is no big need to go downtown, at the Rideau Centre, most of the stores are somewhere else as well," Labonte said. "The market was a big thing for me, then we started having a lot of small markets across the city."
Rarmarosandratana says that although sales have been improving in 2022, they have a lot to make up for before they return to 2018 levels, which in his words was a very great year.