Improved downtown vacancy rate in both Essex Centre and Harrow

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An improvement in the number of vacant commercial units in Essex Centre and Harrow.

Town administration recently completed its second Downtown Vacancy Report for those two areas.

According to the report, Downtown Essex Centre had a vacancy rate of 5.79 per cent in 2022 compared to a vacancy rate of 11.54 per cent in the first ever assessment in 2017. 

Downtown Harrow had a vacancy rate of 10.42 per cent in 2017 but improved to 6 per cent in 2022.

Nelson Silveira, Economic Development Officer for the Town of Essex, credits several programs for helping improve the vacancy rate, including incentives offered through the Community Improvement Plan.

"Facade improvement grants, outdoor cafe and patio grants, all of these public financial incentives really stimulate private investment," he says. "So that's kind of what we're trying to do, targeting some of these commercial properties that have been sitting vacant for a long time when we had interested businesses or investors looking at different properties."

He also credits the Harrow Streetscape Project, the My Main Street program, the Business Retention and Expansion Project, and the future Essex Centre Streetscape Project for helping to attract new business and support existing businesses.

Since the 2017 assessment, 33 new businesses have set-up in Essex Centre while 20 found space in Harrow.

Silveira says having a six per cent in vacancy in both downtowns is good.

"You want a little bit of vacancy or else you don't have any room for growth in your municipality, or room for growth on your main street," he says. "Businesses aren't able to locate because there's nothing to rent. Once you get above that 12 per cent mark, that's when the red flags start to happen. We're well below that threshold, so we're really excited and happy with the results so far."

Silveira believes the low vacancy rate is a good indicatation that business is doing well.

"The downtown is what makes up the fabric of the community. Downtowns are traditionally where people shop, where people spend their money, where people go for a bite to eat," he adds.

Essex Centre was divided into three zones for the study: Talbot Street – North of Maidstone Avenue, Talbot Street – South of Maidstone Avenue, and remaining streets which were mainly side streets off Talbot. A total of 190 units were examined for the study with 11 vacancies listed in the three zones that were examined. 

Essex Centre was divided into three zones for the study: Talbot Street – North of Maidstone Avenue, Talbot Street – South of Maidstone Avenue, and remaining streets which were mainly side streets off Talbot. 100 units were looked at with six vacancies listed in 2022.

Vacancy rate is defined as the percentage of downtown commercial units that are vacant at a given time. Only street-level units were included in the study.