After 25 years on Granville Street, the Equinox Gallery is moving east of Main.
The gallery at 2321 Granville and its five employees are moving to the 500 block of Great Northern Way in September.
Equinox owner Andy Sylvester says the cost of business in South Granville isn’t proportional to its value and is undermining the area as a longstanding shopping destination.
“We’ve been here for 25 years. [Rent has] gone up and continues to go up,” said Sylvester. “For people like me… I would prefer a big space for a gallery, it makes it impossible to function here.”
While other galleries remain on Granville, Sylvester doesn’t think they will be there for long. “I think you’ll see a lot of galleries move off Granville Street if the trends continue… More established galleries, they won’t be able to stick around for much longer,” Sylvester said.
South Granville BIA executive director Sharon Townsend said the cost of rent isn’t causing businesses to leave, since rent has been moderate over the last two years.
“It doesn’t take much for a business to move from profitable to not. But to say that businesses are leaving because of high rent, I can’t say is accurate,” Townsend said.
She said increases in property taxes are the biggest obstacle to businesses on South Granville. According to Townsend, property taxes have increased by as much as 20 per cent for some businesses after Shoppers Drug Mart moved locations last January.
Industrial Revolution, a furniture store on South Granville, has seen some tough times since it opened in 1982, but has managed to stay afloat through operational changes and rebranding. Owner Alan Wilson said smaller businesses are leaving the area and will likely be replaced by larger chains. “We’re finding the larger corporations, predominately from the U.S. are moving in and taking that void and it’s really unfortunately taking the character and the local feel that this neighbourhood has always had. It’s eroding and it’s eroding very quickly.”
Townsend agreed that small businesses are being hit hardest in the area, but said there isn’t a mass exodus and South Granville maintains a good balance of small businesses and national chains. “I never like to see anybody go, but 10 per cent turnover a year is not unusual and this is about where we’re at,” said Townsend.
Wilson believes many South Granville businesses will close for good, rather than move.
“A lot of them are closing their stores for good and the businesses are gone. Not everyone is going bankrupt by any means, but there has been quite a large exodus on the street,” said Wilson. “I think there’s some relocation to areas that are less costly, but it’s just a matter of time before it will catch up to them as well.”
According to Sylvester, South Granville has lost its original atmosphere.
“As a destination, it’s less interesting than it was. The entrepreneurs that I would be interested in having as neighbours can’t afford it,” said Sylvester. “It’s a problem. It’s a big problem.”