Jamie Hayes

Jamie Hayes

Downtown development: Filling vacancies top priority of MDBA

Mission Downtown Business Association sees plenty of potential for growth and is trying to attract more stores to open in the area.

Downtown Mission boasts a collection of shops, locally run businesses, restaurants and other establishments – along with noticeable vacancies.

The increasing number of empty buildings has not gone unnoticed by the Mission Downtown Business Association (MDBA).

Jamie Hayes, executive director of the MDBA, admits that the vacancies are a concern. However, she says there is still plenty of potential downtown. She also realizes that the challenges now being faced are not unique to Mission and other smaller downtown cores.

“Robson Street in Vancouver has plenty of vacancy as well,” said Hayes, who takes some comfort in that.

“But it doesn’t change the fact of what things are.

“The fact of the matter is we do have many businesses that have been here for decades. We’ve got a loyal group of people who shop down here on a regular basis, but we are concerned about the vacancies.”

Hayes said the association is currently compiling a database of information that will create a list of vacancies, the square footage of empty space and the price per square foot.

The MDBA is more than 100 members strong and continues to promote and market the downtown, plan events to draw people to the downtown, and work to maintain and attract businesses and potential investors.

“We try very hard to encourage people to shop local. Some people think, incorrectly, that shopping local is going to be more expensive, and that’s not necessarily the case.

“Some people think that the downtown is unsafe, which is completely untrue,” said Hayes.

Another challenge is the public’s urge to cross the bridge and shop in neighbouring Abbotsford. Hayes said it has become habit for some people who think other communities have more to offer.

“Downtown Mission is so utterly unique. A lot of people don’t realize what stores are down here.”

The MDBA has an “excellent relationship” with the district’s economic development department, and Hayes said she is excited about the incentives being offered to both improve and attract businesses from outside of Mission.

Stacey Crawford, economic development officer for the District of Mission, said there are incentives in place to encourage new and current building and business owners to invest in their properties.

One example is the property tax exemption.

“It is a 10-year program that takes the pre-development property value and effectively freezes it for five years,” said Crawford.

Building improvements increase a property’s value, causing a rise in taxes. The program freezes the tax rate for five years, then gradually increases it to the normal level over the following five years.

That incentive is applicable to existing downtown buildings and  vacant lots.

Another example is the facade improvement program – a grant that will pay 50 per cent, up to a maximum of $2,000, of the cost for street-facing facade improvements.

It can be claimed by either the building owner or the merchant.

“There’s definitely been a lot of interest in that one. It is definitely the most achievable one,” said Crawford.

Other incentives include municipal fee reductions for business improvements and waiving the community amenities contribution.

Crawford said there is also more flexibility being offered regarding parking requirements and building heights.

“The downtown core is the heart of Mission. Historically, it’s the commercial centre of Mission and it’s also the first impression of Mission,” he said.

He said the district is trying to create the environment that encourages renewal.

The incentives began just over a year ago as part of the Mission City Downtown Action Plan. Created by the former council, it is not clear exactly how much, or when, other aspects of the plan will come into effect.

Hayes said the MDBA is hoping the district proceeds with the streetscape portion of the plan. That would mean improvements to lamps, sidewalks and general aesthetics.

Hayes said the association has many goals for the downtown core, but filling the vacancies takes priority, for now.

“We’re hoping that development increases and in doing so it will attract businesses and developers from outside of Mission to come. I’d love this to be a hot spot. And it can be – there’s so much potential.”

“Do you shop in downtown Mission on a regular basis? Let us know, and share your comments below.


Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 20

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Most Read