Thursday, July 12, 2012

Improving the Area

Does your neighbourhood have a Business Improvement Area (BIA)?

The City of Toronto website describes BIA's as:

A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is an association of commercial property owners and tenants within a defined area who work in partnership with the City to create thriving, competitive, and safe business areas that attract shoppers, diners, tourists, and new businesses. By working collectively as a BIA, local business have the organizational and funding capacity to be catalysts for civic improvement, enhancing the quality of life in their local neighbourhood and the City as a whole.

Toronto now celebrates a total of 72 BIAs across this City, representing over 32,000 businesses — the largest number of BIAs in North America. Together, they generate over $25 million in funding towards street and sidewalk beautification, marketing and promotional campaigns, street festivals, clean street / graffiti-removal campaigns, and crime prevention strategies. BIAs also acts as a unified voice to address issues on behalf of their membership.

While the City of Toronto website lists 72 official BIA's, local business owners not too far from where we live have just succesfully voted to develop the city's 73rd, The Queensway BIA.

Although we live just beyond the boundaries of the area, I am fully in support of this initiative, which I feel will benefit all surrounding neighbourhoods.  I'd love to be within close proximity of great local shops and restaurants, and I would love even more for our neighbourhood to be a destination for people from other areas.  Matt and I have been known to get on the highway and drive across the city for ice cream and burgers (sometimes both on the same night!).  I would love to have people from other areas driving to OUR area for similar reasons.  (Ed's Real Scoop and Burgers Priest, do you hear me?!)

While our house doesn't fall within the boundaries of any of the city's BIA's, but we are surrounded by a number of others, including:
  • The Kingsway
  • Mimico By The Lake
  • Mimico
  • Lakeshore Village
  • Roncesvalles Village
  • Bloor West Village
To me, most of these represent areas that have already benefited from significant improvement and rejuvenation over recent years, with lots of successful local businesses opening, beautification of streets, and increased sense of community.  The BIAs also hold festivals and events throughout the year, that are of benefit to both business owners and the local residents.




Liberty Village, where our rental condo is located, also has a BIA.  That area is undergoing such mass development, and I think that the LVBIA has been helpful in giving local businesses some direction and cohesiveness.  Some of the initiatives that have occured in the community, thanks to the LVBIA, include the "Benchmark Program" which saw old benches transformed into public art pieces, increased bike storage/locks, discounted TTC Metropasses for employees in the area, and an annual after-work street party. 

The Benchmark Program brought on by the LVBIA
 I'm anxious to see what the Queensway BIA has planned.  The local city councillor has announced that on September 29th, the BIA's first festival "Celebrate the Queensway" will take place in a local park.  I hope this is just the beginning of many great things for our neighbourhood.

Is there a BIA in your community?  What benefits has it brought to the area?

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