More businesses are opening on Sidney’s Beacon Avenue, reversing a trend that some in the community saw as damaging to the town’s downtown core.
David Calveley, chair of the Town of Sidney’s Economic Development Commission, is reporting that today’s commercial space vacancy rate is down to 5.71 per cent — a sharp decline from a February, 2016 report that showed an approximate 14 per cent vacancy rate.
Those statistics are being interpreted differently between these two reports. Calveley said the original study — done by the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society (SBIA) — was based on the number of commercial spaces in the SBIA’s coverage area (downtown Sidney) that were vacant.
The EDC’s report, however, looked at the total amount of commercial square footage in the same area and how much of that is currently sitting empty. Compared in the same manner, however, Calveley said the current vacancy rate jumps to 8.67 per cent — still almost half of the first vacancy rate analysis.
“I’m happy to see these numbers,” said Sidney town councillor Mervyn Lougher-Goodey, “as the old vacancy rate — 14 per cent — was still circulating.”
Lougher-Goodey asked Calveley what the average commercial vacancy rate is in similar-sized communities. Cavely replied that it’s generally in the five to five-and-a-half per cent range.
The latest numbers put downtown Sidney right into that average range, yet Calveley warned that the numbers continue to be fluid.
Of the 5.71 per cent in vacant commercial square feet, he said once properties that are empty and waiting for redevelopment are taken out, that vacancy rate drops even further, to 4.3 per cent.
In actual numbers, the EDC’s report found that of 405 business properties in the downtown area, 36 are currently vacant — 16 of which are located on Beacon Avenue, Sidney’s main street.
The EDC’s report, Calveley continued, was done as part of the first phase in creating a strategy to attract more businesses into Sidney, helping provide potential operators with information about what’s available. In its second phase, he said they will be working on a business gap analysis — determining what businesses Sidney has, what it does have and what people want. This step, Calveley added, will cost money as they look to an outside expert. The EDC’s budget he said will cover an estimated cost of between $3,000 and $5,000.
Once that phase is complete, the third is a look at West Sidney.
“This is a different kettle of fish,” Calveley said, noting this area has a lot more industrial tenants than outright commercial ones.
The goal is to have all the work done and ready to present to council by June 30 of this year — a timeline Calveley said might be pushed ahead, depending on how quickly the volunteer members of the EDC can work.
Councillor Barbara Fallot and Erin Bremner-Mitchell thanked the EDC for its hard work.
“This information is a solid part of what’s needed to attract more business,” Calveley said.