British Columbia

This B.C. city is offering free rent for new businesses to revive the downtown core

A lack of activity along the main street in Grand Forks, B.C., has prompted the local business association to offer free rent to those interested in opening up a new shop in the city’s downtown.

Floods, fires and the global pandemic have forced many Grand Forks businesses to close

The Grand Forks Downtown Business Association is offering free rent to new businesses in hopes of reviving the shopping experience downtown. (Google Street View)

Several boarded up storefronts along the main street in Grand Forks, B.C., have prompted a unique initiative offering free rent to those interested in opening up a new business in the city's downtown.

"It's been a difficult time for Market [Avenue] in the downtown core," said Mayor Brian Taylor.

Wildfires, floods and the global pandemic forced many business owners to look for other space to operate out of. Several have closed their businesses altogether. 

To help revive the downtown core, the local downtown business association is offering new commercial businesses six months of free rent on two-year leases. 

"Anybody's eligible,"  said association director Alfred Him. 

"They just have to submit a business proposal and commit to a minimum two year lease term and that's about it."

The program is meant only for new businesses, because rather than having shops relocate, the association would like to fill up the storefronts downtown to attract both local shoppers and tourists to the area. 

A man rides a bicycle in the dirtyflood water inundating downtown Grand Forks, as a crew sandbags a business in the background. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Him said six funding partners, including landlords, have joined the initiative to help rent out seven storefronts, ranging from 33 to 500 square metres in size. Many of the spaces have been newly renovated following flooding in 2018. 

"Because of the flood, a lot of business people that were here actually had leased business space and because it took such a great length of time to get everything repaired, these businesses just moved on," Him said. 

Taylor is excited to see the initiative moving forward in his city. 

"I think this is just a sign of the kind of resilience that the town has when those people directly affected are taking direct action," he said. 

Three people have reached out with business proposals since the program launched on August 12. Applications will be accepted until September 4.

With files from Bob Keating and Daybreak South