The downtown “Olde Towne Okotoks” area is the heart of the community and through the Land Use Bylaw, the ongoing vitality and integration of new businesses is highly encouraged and will be actively promoted and assisted. The downtown focus continues to provide for recreation, culture, entertainment, professional services, service industry and boutique tourist-related retail and service activities. Emphasis on businesses that attract a major draw of people to Okotoks will be encouraged as will the attraction of industrial businesses that can compliment the existing established commercial base.
Three expansion areas identified for the downtown core:
- Elma Street (east of Northridge Drive)
- South Railway Street
- McRae Street East and North Railway Street (eastbound)
- Commercial nodes encouraged to locate in new neighbourhoods - focus on destination boutiques and professional and technical services as a major focus.
- Pure commercial land opportunities remain available in areas such as Westmount, Southbank Business Park (Tri-Star and Trinity Group as well as Burnswest Corporation Commercial Highway zoned lands)
- Southbank Business Park: Tri-Star Communities/Trinity Group, Gateway Commercial District (36 Net Acres - some already developed). Burnswest Corporation, Highway Commercial District (19.94 Net Acres)
Over the past several years, Okotoks has seen a tremendous amount of retail, restaurant and commercial growth. Commercial and retail industry types contact the Town of Okotoks proactively without the Town actively marketing or seeking them. In previous community surveys, our residents have asked for more retail, restaurants and shopping opportunities in Town. Once land has been zoned for commercial-related activities the Town has a legal obligation to work with any and all interested development parties including larger format and independent business types and start ups.
Economic Development responds and assists with the interested development's feasibility and other research needs to enter the Okotoks marketplace. The securing of the Costco wholesale store as an anchor has assisted in solidifying the Southbank Business Park as another major commercial gateway thus resulting in less economic leakage outside of Okotoks to Calgary. It has also resulted in the creation of up to 500 direct jobs in the Southbank Business Park as well as the much needed non-residential tax injection back to the municipality. Big box format stores draw people and people do explore other business areas of the community thus arguably expanding the Okotoks regional trade area to 250,000 people. With the addition of new larger format businesses will mean that others will have to innovate and adapt to be successful in the longer term focusing on items such as customer service and unique product offering versus price. Downtown businesses will need to adapt in the future with their hours of operation as the 9am-5pm timeframe no longer works in a community where close to 5,000 people commute daily. Evening, weekend, Monday and Holiday hours are what the consumers are seeking since 70% of all consumer spending in North America occurs after 6:00 p.m.
Numerous new smaller independent commercial businesses have entered the Okotoks marketplace, some have come and some have gone for a variety of reasons. Those that have thoroughly thought out their business plan have proven to have business longevity. Some challenges to be aware of are the perceived higher lease and raw land rates/prices in Okotoks for commercial space, concerns around too many of some business offerings, parking challenges as a result of a vital downtown core and challenges finding skilled labour for certain positions. On-going efforts focused on promoting home based business growth and training of all kinds for businesses will continue.