“Set up in Prince Albert's downtown while you can.”
That's the message from Carolyn Carleton, executive director of the P.A. Downtown Business Improvement District, amidst what she calls “fantastic momentum” in the city's downtown core. She said entrepreneurs have been prompted to get their plans going quickly in light of the University of Saskatchewan’s purchase of the forestry building on Central Ave. to use as a multi-faculty campus starting in late 2020.
“We have several buildings for sale or lease and they’re starting to fill up,” Carleton told paNOW, noting there are many people looking for opportunities to relocate or start a new business downtown.
“They want to move in now to do renovations or to start moving clientele and building up their businesses before the U of S opens.”
Carleton was recently appointed to her position thanks to her marketing and communications background, along with her experience working for the local chamber of commerce, but she figured things are taking off on their own after the university's announcement.
“The momentum right now is fantastic," she said with a laugh. "It’s like I don’t even have to work that hard at it.”
Carleton said people are very excited about the idea of a heritage-themed downtown that focuses on art, culture, history, and outdoor spaces with lots of small businesses and offices. She said the recent decision by Vern Temple to renovate his problematic downtown apartment building for use as student accommodation was also a positive step.
“Businesses in that area are locally owned by people who support their families," she said. “That’s the kind of environment that we want; inviting families and students and just having an overall good experience downtown.”
Carleton said the downtown would improve for pedestrians following Temple’s decision to fix up the apartments. Temple recently decided to evict all his tenants and admitted to paNOW his previous attempts to help troubled and addicted people with low-cost rent had not worked out as planned. However, Carleton conceded that relocating people wouldn’t fix the city’s addictions problems.
“It’s something we can all work on together in the city," she said. "It’s not just one person’s problem or one organization’s problem."
Meanwhile, Carleton said tonight’s monthly art walk event encapsulates the sort of vibe the city’s downtown should be all about. There is live music in Memorial Square and at the gazebo, she said, while the museum, restaurants, galleries, and shops would be staying open later.
“The people who are down here have seen the potential of the downtown for a very long time,” she said. “I’m excited to see the possibilities.”
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