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‘Open downtown stores in evenings’

A BIA survey showed that people wanted stores to stay open later at night. - News Files
A BIA survey showed that people wanted stores to stay open later at night.
— image credit: News Files

When people come to downtown Maple Ridge, they’re looking to spend their money – either on shopping, events or seeing their doctor or lawyer.

And when they get to the town centre, they don’t mind a bit of a jaunt to get where they’re going.

“Most of them didn’t really have a lot of problem walking to their parking.

“And some are very smart about it too,” Ineke Boekhorst told Maple Ridge council Monday.

Boekhorst, with the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association, summarized a 2013 survey in which 200 people were interviewed, half online and half on a one-on-one basis.

Almost 30 per cent said they visited for shopping and 20 per cent visited downtown so they could attend events.

And while they all got to the centre by car, fewer than five per cent expected to be able to park in front of their desired business, while almost 45 per cent didn’t mind walking from one to five blocks.

The downtown, though, still has an image problem.

Half of those surveyed felt either safe or very safe when on the downtown streets.

But 35 per cent felt “a little concerned,” while about eight per cent said they don’t feel safe.

It’s a topic the survey acknowledges needs more research, pointing out the feelings of unease don’t correlate with any particular age, or time of day, noting the answers seem to be based on perception rather than facts.

“Overall, in general, people feel quite safe.

“There’s not a lot of facts about why people don’t feel safe, just perception,” Boekhorst said.

People do want to see longer hours for shops and more specialty stores and fine dining.

About 85 per cent said they’d do more local shopping if the stores were open past 5 p.m.

“Bottom line, our shops would probably be better if they were open at night,” Boekhorst said.

When people were asked about which brand they’d like to see, 72 per cent said they wanted brand-name clothing and shoe stores, while 26 per cent wanted more chain restaurants, bistros and outdoor patios.

Another 23 per cent said they wanted to see either Walmart or Costco in the downtown.

A word cloud graphic involving a jumble of words showed the same thing. The larger the name appeared in print, the more it was mentioned in the survey.

Brand name clothing and Walmart were the largest names in the word cloud, followed by women’s fashion and shoes.

Chain restaurants were next biggest. Words in smaller print included Home Depot, Future Shop, a pub district and bistro.

Boekhorst highlighted some the BIA’s other programs as a prelude to the annual meeting May 12.

During the five years that the facade improvement program has been in place, 60 businesses have used the program that provides grants to help fix up store fronts.

Boekhorst acknowledged a small, but growing percentage of the 1,000 members in the association participate in the shop local campaigns, but noted 300 of the membership are property owners and many members are professional services.

“We’re trying to find more and more projects that all businesses can get involved in.”

 

 

 

 

 

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