Councillor Josh Matlow

Inside Toronto: Talk of Bayview Avenue BIA in Leaside heats up

March 26, 2012


The road to a BIA on Bayview is being travelled with baby steps.


Talk of a business improvement area along the Leaside stretch of Bayview Avenue has been talked about for years with nothing to show for the talk, but Don Valley West Councillor John Parker said they are currently making baby steps towards the endeavour.


Parker, who represents the east side of Bayview Avenue, has spoken with St. Paul’s Councillor Josh Matlow, who represents the west side of the street, about the idea and he’s also spoken with some of the business owners.


The BIA concept began in Toronto in Bloor West Village in 1970 as a way to enhance the business area and improve the community.


There are now more than 70 BIAs across the city (and hundreds more around the world) that do things such as streetscape improvements – decorative lighting, planting, banners – and plan community events and festivals (the hugely popular Taste of the Danforth festival was started by the GreekTown on the Danforth BIA).


“Business improvement areas have shown themselves to be very effective,” Parker said.


He is hopeful the benefits a BIA has brought to other neighbourhoods can be one day realized in Leaside along Bayview Avenue.


“We have all the elements of a perfect situation for a BIA to thrive,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for businesses in the area to brand themselves.”


To help bring the idea to fruition, Parker has put a member of his staff on the file to move the discussions along.


Grant Allardyce owns The Source menswear store on Bayview Avenue. He said there’s been talk of a BIA even before he set up shop 12 years ago.


He thinks it would be a good idea, but he sees how many business owners and landlords might be against it.


“Most landlords look at it as a tax, it’s just another tax because they do have to pay into it,” Allardyce said.


Businesses do pay an additional BIA levy on top of their property taxes, but the BIA also receives matching funds from the city to do street beautification or to help with events.


Allardyce sees the benefits of a BIA on Bayview, which has lost foot traffic to the big box developments that have gone in to the east, and he hopes other business owners will too.


“Festivals much like the Taste of the Danforth can’t happen without a BIA,” he said.


Many local residents would welcome a BIA as there have been comments through the years about the lack of flowers or seating along the stretch to make it a more welcoming place for shoppers.


Rob Tremblett owns the Valu-Mart on Bayview and he thinks a BIA in the area would be positive.


“I thought there was one when I came here and I was surprised there wasn’t,” he said.


He understands the challenges though as starting up – and then being a member of – a BIA can require time for meetings that many business owners just don’t have.


Parker and the supportive local business owners aren’t giving up. Parker hopes to have more to report in the coming months.


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