The Brandon Downtown Development Corp. has a new strategic plan aimed specifically at repopulating downtown and bringing business back to the neighbourhood.
Executive director Elisabeth Saftiuk said it’s a move meant to bring life back to the historic heart of the city.
"Truly, our ability to bring life back to the heart of our city is largely dependent on our ability to draw that critical mass of people living downtown," she said.
A higher population would give stores, restaurants and entertainment options a reason to set up shop in the area.
"When we have a downtown that empties after 5 p.m. or where there’s no activity on the weekends, it’s a downtown that will suffer economically, culturally and socially. If we can get more people living downtown, it really does create the inherent demand for services and amenities," Saftiuk said.
She said it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario. Once more people live downtown, more businesses will set up shop, making it an even more attractive part of Brandon to live.
The BDDC runs a number of programs meant to help rejuvenate downtown, including a redevelopment grant, which covers 25 per cent of the cost of renovations to a property up to $175,000. The organization also offers a rent-abatement program that gives businesses rental assistance for up to five years and a facade improvement program to assist with exterior renovations.
Last year was a busy one for the BDDC, Saftiuk said. The group helped 13 businesses through rent abatement, including Dunes and Soul, and helped four businesses with a redevelopment grant — TOUR Fit Club, Dunes, the Brandon Chamber of Commerce and the property at 136 11th St.
Saftiuk was at the Brandon City Council meeting on Monday evening asking for $300,000 in funding. Last year, the group asked for $350,000 in funding but received $300,000, so Saftiuk said this year’s ask is consistent with funding in past years.
The city and provincial government each provided the corporation with $250,000 annually up until 2018, when the province ended its multi-year agreement with the corporation.
Council increased its annual funding to the BDDC by $50,000 in the city’s 2018 budget as a result, for a total contribution of $300,000.
Saftiuk said in 2019, the organization received $175,000 from the province in grant funding, but it’s not money she’s counting on in 2020.
Brandon City Council will decide on funding for the corporation during municipal budget deliberations on Jan. 31 and Feb 1.
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