Pembroke city council said they're trying to revitalize their city's downtown to counteract the effects of big-box stores luring away customers.

As many as one-third of the downtown store fronts are empty, with many more buildings neglected by absentee landlords, according to local business owners.

"The streets are terrible and there's not much parking," said one resident.

Add that to the prices and selection offered by big-box stores outside the core, and you get the problem many cities are trying to address.

"The only constant here is change – downtowns evolve . . . all across North America," said Susan Ellis with Pembroke Economic Development. "It's ready for some significant changes."

Ellis said they're looking for ideas about how to make those changes, reaching out to business owners to change what she calls a "tired" downtown.

"We're looking for a change in ownership, some private investors and looking for a few angels," she said.

Shelley Burchart runs the downtown's Business Improvement Area and said it needs more investment from engaged landlords.

"The landlords don't live in town," she said. "They don't take care of the buildings."

Those looking to improve say the chance is coming.

Algonquin College is building a new downtown campus, nearby CFB Petawawa is expanding and almost 1,000 new homes are being built.

For now, the city says it's focusing on what the city does have – 1500 parking spots, award-winning restaurants and specialty stores.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Catherine Lathem