The Old Strathcona Business Association (OSBA) is launching the next phase of its economic recovery plan as more businesses open in the district.

So far this year, more businesses have opened than closed and more business licenses have been issued than cancelled. Both are positive turnarounds compared to 2020. Vacancy rates remain just slightly higher than typical, proving the prediction in late 2020 that Old Strathcona was going to weather the pandemic downturn better than other business districts.

“We’re rolling out our new business recruitment package, a welcome package for new members and an ‘Old Strathcona Success Stories’ video series – because there are lots of great things to highlight and share about the businesses in our district, and the people who work at them,” said Cherie Klassen, executive director of the OSBA.

Thinking about opening a business? See what makes Old Strathcona a good fit at our Opportunities page.

The OSBA’s economic recovery task force worked in 2020 to react to changes COVID-19 kept throwing at business owners. Members identified business diversification, recruitment, and ongoing retention efforts as key to bounce back not just from the pandemic but future economic slowdowns. The task force transitioned to a business recruitment committee in 2021, leading efforts on the new strategy, which was built on surveys of the public and OSBA member businesses, research, and other work throughout the year, including expanded sidewalks and seating. (See the surveys on our Reports page.) The plan was jointly funded by the OSBA and the City of Edmonton through its Economic Recovery Grant.

Along with sharing the stories of what success in Old Strathcona can look like for a business, new messaging declares the business district as Edmonton’s favourite for shopping and dining.

“In our public survey, Edmontonians chose Old Strathcona as the shopping district they visit the most and want to return to most often – more than all other shopping districts combined,” said Klassen.

Page from survey report with Question 2 asking people which main street shopping district is they favourite. A bar graph shows Old Strathcona/Whyte Avenue with nearly 60 percent, compared to other areas 19 percent and lower

People said they come back to Old Strathcona again and again because it’s a walkable business district, and they enjoy exploring the area for new shops and experiences. Even those who drive to the area want to walk around once they get here. A large majority of respondents say they visit more than one business every time they visit.

“This confirms Old Strathcona as the main street destination we know it to be,” said Klassen.

“Our strategy is to build on that foundation and more actively bring the kinds of shops, services and dining to the neighbourhood that make Whyte Ave. the Whyte Ave. we love.”

Quick stats:

Business licenses

2020 – 71 licenses issued, 114 licenses cancelled, for a net loss of 43 licenses
2021 – 55 licenses issued, 54 licenses cancelled, for a positive gain of 1 license (Jan-Sept)

(note that licenses do not always mean a new business opened or closed permanently)

Business openings

2020 – 39 businesses opened, 39 closed or moved, for no gain/loss
2021 – 34 businesses opened, 23 closed or moved, for a positive gain of 11 (Jan-Oct)