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What Makes A Great Downtown?

What Makes A Great Downtown?

What Makes A Great Downtown?
May 02
14:19 2017

This is a question that clearly has no objective answer. 

Ask 100 people to define what they think makes a great downtown and you are likely to get at least 100 different answers. What people define as great is clearly a matter of subjective personal taste, and even if you could define it, it would only be for a moment in time because great is a moving target. For economists or real estate analysts who usually strive to work in the realm of numbers and hard data, answering the question “what is great?” almost seems frivolous. Except that it is not.

So who do you ask?

We spoke to Ken Bolt, he and his wife Elaine are the owners of Brant Florist in downtown Burlington.This is a REAL Florist and now with their sons taking over the reins, it represents two generations of a successful family-owned and family operated business in Burlington’s Downtown. For over 54 years Brant Florist’s award winning style has specializing in pleasing customers local to Burlington and greater Toronto area while making deliveries to the rest of Canada, U.S.A. and Internationally.“Why Burlington? Why do we stay on Brant Street?You know, it’s a pretty simple. If you are able to operate a successful business, why would you move? Burlington is a good news story – has a great demographic to service – there’s a good history here.” Satisfied being in Downtown Burlington, Ken has played a leadership role in the growth of this business district.“We have always owned our building and with this location – and from this location, we have built up world wide clientele”.

So what should be considered when determining the right space for a business?

A great downtown is a good place to start but before you start shopping for retail space, any successful retailer knows you need a clear picture of what you must have, what you would like to have and what you absolutely won’t tolerate. While many startup mistakes can be corrected later on, a poor choice of location can be impossible to repair.

Be systematic – and realistic as you consider the following:

Demographics: Who are your customers and how important is their proximity to your location?

Burlington’s downtown is a high growth district with a captive audience of patrons that represent some of Canada’s highest income earners.The promise of intensification, and an exponentially expanded market/customer base, is already a reality downtown as no less than five new condominium developers are actively ushering the next generation of downtown residents and future patrons.

Next: Take a close look at the community.

If your customer base is local, does a sufficient percentage of that population match your customer profile? Enough to support your business? Burlington rises to the top in this area.

Think Millennials: Millennials Are Urban…

Millennials consistently demonstrate a preference for urban living. According to the Urban Land Institute (ULI), 46% of Millennials would prefer to live in an urban setting, compared to 24% for suburban and 30% for rural environments. This explains much of the condo development in Downtown Burlington. Looking ahead, many more mainstream retailers will likely look for great downtown shop space in the months and years to come.

Being systematic and realistic as you can when considering which location works best for your company’s needs. The time you take now could save you many problems later.

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Lloyd Stevens has been writing Canadian business news for over 20 years with articles appearing in Perspective which appears in The Globe & Mail and contributing to and

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