The cost of leasing retail and office space in Bradford West Gwillimbury is a growing concern for both council and the town’s manager of economic development, Michael Disano.
However, Mr. Disano said there’s not much the municipality can do about it.
“We can’t force the hand of the business owners,” he said. “We can only hope that with time, their prices will come back down.”
The concern came up during a discussion at a council meeting regarding the town’s economic state.
The average price for leasing industrial, commercial or retail space in town in 2008 was $15 per square foot.
That said, the total square footage leased in 2008 went up by 10,000 square feet over 2007.
However, that increase is believed be quite low, considering the number of people who were in search of space but couldn’t find any at a good price, according to some members of council.
“I have heard from many people who have come to me and said that they were looking to open up in Bradford but the actual square footage costs were too high,” Ward 4 Councillor Mark Contois said. “We want businesses to relocate, but the price that the landowners are asking is too high.”
According to a report Mr. Disano compiled with the help of outside sources such as Tina Sibbald of Royal LePage Timeless Realty, those prices could soon change without the aid of municipal politicians.
“As development continues to expand west, property owners will have to take a more realistic view with respect to lease rates in order to avoid high vacancy rates in the downtown and east end,” Ms Sibbald said in Mr. Disano’s report. “This applies particularly to buildings which are older and in need of significant structural, system and facade upgrades.”
Making matters worse, according to Mr. Contois, is the number of property owners who don’t live in the town.
“I would love to know the percentage of people who own the buildings that actually live in town,” Mr. Contois said. “These other absentee landlords don’t seem to care what happens to the property.”
However, the involvement of landlords in their property is something the town can’t get involved with, Mr. Disano said.
“There is not a whole lot the town can do unless they want to start to buy or expropriate these properties,” he said.