Landlords fight back against Downtown Association

Commercial landlords in Sault Ste. Marie are lobbying to disband a downtown association that has failed to provide value for the amount of money business owners are forced to pay, a property manager told CREW.

“We’ve given them almost $2 million and we haven’t seen any significant changes over the last 10 years,” said Dominic Ruscio, a property manager with Days Inn and Suites. “We’ve tried to bridge the gaps and make suggestions, but the association has been unreceptive and want to maintain the status quo.”

With businesses paying different levies based on its capacity, many are finding that the policies don’t reflect the realities for diversification in downtown Sault Ste. Marie.

The association has maintained that their value is reflected in vacancy rates that are lower than ever but with the association focusing more on events on just six blocks of Queen St., said Ruscio, landlords are finding little to smile about.

Ruscio, whose own company pays $16,000, is one of many campaigning for co-operation, at the very least, or a change in the guard when it comes to running the association. To do that, Ruscio would need to get half of the property owners in the downtown core on board, in order to officially scrap the association, according to provincial law.

The sense is that landlords want to see more planning surrounding the use of current facilities to aid landlords and business owners. For example, Ruscio said that a street festival currently held on Queen St. is leading to significant periods of business interruption, which he said could be avoided by using the multi-use pavilion near the waterfront.

“We’re not saying they’re doing a bad job per se, but we don’t pay all that money for event-planning," Ruscio said. "We want to see results and they’re kind of relying on an old formula, and that the money is being used for spaces that will benefit landlords and business owners."

Similar sentiments are coming out of Sudbury where John Arnold of Dalron Construction, who manages almost 20 commercial properties, helped to create a downtown development association for focus more on economic development, infrastructure and business retention. His company pays approximately $47,000, he said.

“You have to be able to do more than collecting levies to host ribfests,” he added. “We’re trying to provide that value.”


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