In this Coping With COVID-19 podcast episode, OBJ publisher Michael Curran speaks with OBJ editors David Sali and Peter Kovessy about some of the week’s biggest stories and how Ottawa’s business community is emerging from the ongoing economic challenges.
CURRAN: It’s a big day for the local economy with shopping malls and patios reopening. Peter, can you give us a sense of why today is so important for Ottawa?
KOVESSY: There are several categories of businesses allowed to reopen in Ottawa, as well as in several other parts of Ontario today. Notably for Ottawa, some tour operators are going to be back in business and as you mentioned, outdoor patios.
There are a few things we should be watching for as this unfolds. As we reintroduce a sense of normalcy back into our lives, is that going to have a knock-on effect onto business and consumer confidence as we start to gradually restart some of our habits? The other thing to think about is how well businesses, as well as the city as a whole, will adapt to this new reality. One example is in the ByWard Market we’re hearing discussions about possibly closing streets down to allow for much larger patios. It will be interesting to see how businesses change and evolve to make it work in this new environment.
CURRAN: Dave, you’ve been speaking with lots of business owners this week. How have they been reacting to the reopening?
SALI: In a word, they are ecstatic. You have Glen Shackleton, who owns the Haunted Walk and whose entire business is catering to tourists and curious people who want to walk around the city. He is going to be bringing back a handful of his guides tonight for 75-minute bubble tours, which will be limited to eight people from no more than two households.
Just down the road, Maria Rasouli owns a bicycle tour business and she says she has been waiting for months to get back to work and reopen. Her revenues have gone down 95 per cent, so she will be eagerly jumping back into action.
CURRAN: One of the biggest headlines this week was about a 2.7-million-square-foot business park being built in Barrhaven, nearly three times the size of the much-talked-about Amazon warehouse. Peter, why might this be a great location for this new development?
KOVESSY: That property has long been eyed by developers looking at distribution, trucking or logistics because of its proximity to the 400-series highway network. What I find interesting is this wave of development at the Citigate Business Park and what it means for Barrhaven. Along with this current proposal, in recent years we’ve seen the Tomlinson Group build a beautiful new corporate headquarters there and we’ve seen new hotels under development. This is really exciting news for Barrhaven.