Of the 10 commercial spaces for rent in Rossland’s downtown, six are on the 2100 block of Columbia Avenue.
Many of the spaces have been left by businesses moving down the block, closer to Washington Street, but those businesses couldn’t have moved if there weren’t empty spaces to begin with.
Some of the extra spaces were created when the hardware store closed down and was divided into seven units.
Renovations finished in February, and just one spot remains empty. Chris Bowman, the owner’s representative, said he has had some enquiries regarding the space.
Joe Van Der Ham owns 2118 Columbia Ave. and one of the suites in his building has been empty for about four months, since the artist renting it past away. Van Der Ham has had enquiries about the space, but he’s been holding it for his son, who may open a business there.
Van Der Ham attributes so many empty spaces downtown to the construction on Columbia three years ago.
“When the City tore up the street, and redid all the front street, that finished off a lot of marginal businesses,” he said.
The former notary republic’s office at 2110 Columbia Ave. belongs to Andy Talbot and has been empty since June 1.
Talbot has been a commercial landlord in downtown Rossland and a downtown business owner for about 30 years. Asked if he’d seen a shuffle like this before, he said “not quite like this one.”
Like, Van Der Ham, Talbot attributed the high number of empty spaces on Columbia to the construction.
“There were businesses there before they tore up the main street, and I think we anticipated that there would be some casualties to having that much disruption to business,” he said.
But Talbot also observed that not every business needs a storefront.
“With home-based business and with computers, people don’t so much need office space and need downtown,” he said.
Asked to comment on the effects of construction, Mayor Kathy Moore said, “I’m sure it had a negative effect because the street was closed. The city and the contractor did everything they could to keep business open as much as possible, but you know, there’s no place to park, and you know, it was a hassle. It wasn’t the nice inviting street that it is today.”
Moore stressed that the construction on Columbia Avenue was necessary, and that it was done when it was because the province was going to pave the road.
She also pointed to the city’s Tax Revitalization bylaw, which allows a building owner to make improvements on a building, and take a tax holiday on the improvements for an agreed amount of time.
“It’s something that we do to try and help business,” she said. “But some of the things… It’s beyond what the city can control… If somebody chooses a business, it’s up to them to do their market research to see is their business is viable for this community.”